Prof. Dr. Katja Liebal

Prof. Dr. Katja Liebal

Research Fellow

Humanbiologie und Primatenkognition
Talstraße 33, Room 210
04103 Leipzig

Phone: +49 341 97 - 36879
Fax: +49 341 97 - 36789


Since 2020, Katja Liebal is the head of the Human Biology and Primate Cognition group at the Faculty of Life Sciences and since 2024, she is the director of the LeipzigLab at Leipzig University. She studied biology and completed her doctorate at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig before working as a lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, UK, and as a junior professor in the Excellence Cluster Languages of Emotion at Freie Universität Berlin in the fields of cross-species and cross-cultural psychology.

She studies the development and cultural variability of children's attitudes towards other living beings in an interdisciplinary network with almost 50 cooperation partners in 18 countries. She also investigates the communicative, emotional and social-cognitive abilities of primates, including humans, how these abilities develop in the first years of life and how developmental trajectories differ between humans and other apes.

Professional career

  • since 06/2020
    Head of the group Human Biology and Primate Cognition, Faculty of Life Sciences, Institute of Biology, University of Leipzig
  • 04/2015 - 05/2020
    Professor of Comparative Developmental Psychology, Department of Education and Psychology, Freie Universität Berlin
  • 04/2009 - 03/2015
    Assistant Professor of Evolutionary Psychology, Excellence Cluster "Languages of Emotion", Freie Universität Berlin
  • 04/2005 - 08/2008
    Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology, University of Portsmouth, UK
  • 07/2001 - 02/2005
    PhD Student, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig; Department of Comparative and Developmental Psychology


  • 10/1995 - 05/2001
    Biology (Diploma), University Leipzig

Katja Liebal's research interests centers on the cognitive and communicative skills that might be uniquely human and those shared with other primate species, and the developmental trajectories of these skills. She uses a cross-species, cross-cultural approach and combines observational and non-invasive experimental methods to study the gestural and facial communication, emotion expression, empathy, and prosocial behavior in human children from different cultural contexts and several species of nonhuman great apes.

Her current research focus is the project Children and Nature. Within this interdisciplinary, international cooperation between scientists, local collaboration partners and public institutions, she investigates how animal-directed attitudes of children develop in different societies and how these attitudes may vary depending on age, socio-cultural context, and the role of a given species within a society.

I will be teaching Human Biology (Bachelor Biology and Teaching Biology) and the module Diversity of Cognition in the Master Neuroscience and Behavior from the winter semester 2024.

  • Biology for medical and dentistry students