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


I am head of theHuman Biology and Primate Cognition group at the Faculty of Life Sciences, Institute of Biology, and spokesperson of the "Leipzig Lab", where I co-lead the "Children and Nature" project with Daniel Haun (MPI EVA).  

My current research focuses on two main areas: In the "Children and Nature" project, we are investigating children's attitudes towards other living things, how these develop into adolescence, and whether they vary between different cultural contexts. This is done in an interdisciplinary, international network with almost 50 cooperation partners. I also study the communicative, emotional and social-cognitive abilities of primates, including humans. Here I am interested in how these abilities develop in the first years of life and how the developmental trajectories may differ between humans and 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

My research interests center 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. I use a cross-species, cross-cultural approach and combine 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.

My current research focus is the project Children and Nature, which I lead together with Prof. Daniel Haun, director of the Department of Comparative Cultural Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Within this interdisciplinary, international cooperation between scientists, local research assistants and public institutions, we investigate 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.

  • Biology for medical and dentistry students

    • Vorlesung Biologie für Human- und Zahnmediziner:innen (WiSe)
    • Biologiepraktikum für Humanmediziner:innen