Past projects

Under the founding Director of the Calleva Centre, Professor Jennifer Lau, work was conducted in a first series of projects which looked at a set of interconnected research questions, including:


“Group decision-making is optimal in adolescence.” Haller S.P.W., Bang D., Bahrami B., Lau J.Y.F. Scientific Reports (2018) 8:15565. LINK

“Adolescent and adult risk-taking in virtual social contexts.” Haddad A.D., Harrison F., Norman T., Lau J.Y. Frontiers in Psychology (2014) 5:1476. LINK

“Does interaction matter? Testing whether a confidence heuristic can replace interaction in collective decision-making.” Bang D., Fusaroli R., Tylén K., Olsen K., Latham P.E., Lau J.Y., Roepstorff A., Rees G., Frith C.D., Bahrami B. Consciousness and Cognition (2014) 26:13-23. LINK

From 2014 two projects extended the Centre’s work further.

Professors Stuart West, Kevin Foster and Tom Norman investigated Cooperation and Conflict, since one of the greatest problems for the biological and social sciences is to explain cooperative social behaviours. Cooperation should in principle reduce the relative fitness of the cooperator and hence be selected against; but cooperation is common at all levels of life. Bacterial pathogens cooperate to overcome the immune response of their hosts, meerkats babysit the pups of other individuals, and ants live in complex social societies. Within humans, our underlying psychology, morality, institutions and societies are all based around cooperative interactions. This project exploited two systems that offer very different advantages for studying the evolution of cooperation: humans and bacteria. Humans offer excellent opportunities for studying how levels of cooperation are adjusted conditionally in response to local conditions, as well as a unique ability for examining the underlying mechanisms and motivations. Bacteria offer excellent opportunities for experimental evolution studies, since it is possible to study how cooperation evolves in different environmental and social conditions.


“Payoff-based learning best explains the rate of decline in cooperation across 237 public-goods games.” Burton-Chellew M.N., West S.A. Nature Human Behaviour (2021) 5:1330-1338. LINK

“Bacteria Use Collective Behavior to Generate Diverse Combat Strategies.” Mavridou D.A.I., Gonzalez D., Kim W., West S.A., Foster K.R. Current Biology (2018) 28:345-355. LINK

“Evidence for strategic cooperation in humans.” Burton-Chellew M.N., El Mouden C., West S.A.. Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences) (2017) 284:20170689. LINK

“Social learning and the demise of costly cooperation in humans.” Burton-Chellew M.N., El Mouden C., West S.A.. Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences) (2017) 284:20170067. LINK

“Conditional cooperation and confusion in public-goods experiments.” Burton-Chellew M.N., El Mouden C., West S.A.. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. (2016) 113:1291-1296. LINK

Professors Felix Budelmann, Robin Dunbar and Laurie Maguire investigated Adults at Play(s), to study the psychology of dramatic audiences. At the heart of this project was the notion of make-believe, which is psychologically puzzling: audiences know that what they see or read is fictional (the characters, the plot) but they respond to it emotionally as if it were real – a form of ‘cognitive dissonance’. This oddity raises psychological questions: what psychological mechanism(s) make(s) these seemingly contradictory mental states (knowing while pretending) possible? What benefit do audiences derive from this investment and engagement? At the same time a reciprocal literary question arises: how do dramatists manipulate the nature and the degree of the audience’s commitment to the transaction (‘I know this is not real but I temporarily behave as if it is’)? Adults at Play(s) explored the psychological and literary questions in tandem, with methodologies drawn from both psychology and the humanities and a focus on Greek and Shakespearean tragedy.


“How Audiences Engage With Drama: Identification, Attribution and Moral Approval.” Teasdale B., Maguire L., Budelmann F., Dunbar R.I.M.. Frontiers in Psychololgy (2021) 12:762011. LINK

“Differential effects of film genre on viewers’ absorption, identification and enjoyment.” Thompson J.M, Teasdale B., Duncan S., van Emde Boas E., Budelmann F., Maguire L., Dunbar R.I.M. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts (2021) 15:697–709. LINK

“Individual differences in transportation in narrative drama.” Thompson J.M, Teasdale B., Duncan S., van Emde Boas E., Budelmann F., Maguire L., Dunbar R.I.M. Review of General Psychology (2018) 22:210–219. LINK

“Cognition, endorphins, and the literary response to tragedy.” Budelman F., Dunbar R.I.M., Duncan S., van Emde Boas E., Maguire L., Teasdale B., Thompson J. The Cambridge Quarterly (2017) 46:229-250. LINK

“Emotional arousal when watching drama increases pain threshold and social bonding.” Dunbar R.I.,. Teasdale B., Thompson J., Budelmann F., Duncan S., van Emde Boas E., Maguire L.. Royal Society Open Science (2016) 3:160288. LINK