Dolphin Research
Bonobo Research
Christine M. Johnson  PhD

Department of Cognitive Science
University of California San Diego
La Jolla, CA 92093-0515



Cogs 17  Cognitive Neuroscience
Cogs 102A  Distributed Cognition
Cogs 143  Animal Cognition
Cogs 184  Modeling Cognitive Evolution
Cogs 199  Independent Studies
Cogs 260  Grad Seminars on
      Evolution & Comparative Cognition

Herzing & Johnson (2015) MIT Press

   Social Attribution
   Market Models of Partner Selection
   Vocal & Behavioral Imitation
   Signature Whistle Use
   Gesture Development
   Triadic Attention
Elephants' Social Construction of Space
Ontogeny of Human Triadic Attention
My primary interest is in the evolution of social cognition and in taking a comparative approach to its study. In our lab, we do both experimental and observational research on interactions between socially sophisticated animals, including dolphins, bonobos, elephants and humans. Our multi-scalar observational analyses include moment-by-moment video and audio analyses, situated within longer term behavioral patterns. By applying a model of "Distributed Cognition"* to such interactions, we aim to understand the media of information flow in these engagements, and the constraints on behavioral co-regulation in these dynamic systems.


Johnson, C.M, Sullivan, J., Jensen, J., Buck, C., Trexel, T., St. Leger, J. (2018) Prosocial predictions by Bottlenose dolphins based on motion patterns in visual stimuli. Psychological Science, 1-9. doi: 10.1177/0956797618771078.

Johnson, C.M.(2016) Exploring social markets, partner debt, and mimetic currency in dolphins. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 3, 224-242.

Johnson, C.M.(2015) The cognitive ecology of dolphin social engagement. In D.L. Herzing & C.M. Johnson (Eds). Dolphin Communication & Cognition, pp: 229-256. MIT Press.

Herzing, D.L. & Johnson, C.M. (2015). Dolphin Communication & Cognition. MIT Press.

Johnson, C.M., Sullivan, J., Buck, C.L., Trexel, J. & Scarpuzzi, M. (2014) Visible & invisible displacement with dynamic visual occlusion in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops spp). Animal Cognition, 18, 179-193.

de Barbaro, K., Johnson, C.M. & Deak, G.O. (2013) Twelve-month "social revolution" emerges from mother-infant sensorimotor coordination: A longitudinal investigation. Human Development, 56, 223-248.

Johnson, C.M. (2010) Observing cognitive complexity in primates and cetaceans. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 23, 587-624.

Horbach, K.M., Friedman, W.R. & Johnson, C.M. (2010) The occurrence and context of S-Posture display by captive belugas (Delphinapterus leucas). International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 23, 289-700.

Hutchins, E. & Johnson, C.M. (2009) Modeling the emergence of language as an embodied collective cognitive activity. Topics in Cognitive Science, 1, 523-546.

Johnson, C. M. & Karin-D'Arcy, M.R. (2006) Social attention in nonhuman primates: A behavioral review. Aquatic Mammals, 32, No 4:423-442.

Johnson, C. M. & Herzing, D. L. (2006) Primate, cetacean & pinniped cognition compared: An introduction. Aquatic Mammals, 32, No 4:409-412.

Johnson, C.M. (2004). The micro-ethology of social attention: "Brightness" in bonobos. Folia Primatologica: 75(suppl 1), 175.

Johnson, C.M. (2002). The Vygotskian advantage in cognitive modeling: Participation precedes and thus prefigures understanding. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25: 628-629.

Johnson, C. M. (2001) Distributed primate cognition: A review. Animal Cognition 3, No 4:167-183

Johnson, C.M. & Keil F.C. (2000) Explanatory knowledge and conceptual combinations. In F.C. Keil & R.A. Wilson (Eds) Explanation and Cognition, pp: 327-360, MIT Press, Cambridge.

Johnson, C. M., Frank, R. E. & Flynn, D. (1999) Peering in mature, captive bonobos (Pan paniscus). Primates, 40.2: 397-407.

Johnson, C.M. & Moewe, K. (1999) Pectoral fin preference during contact in Commerson's dolphins (Cephalorhynchus commersonii). Aquatic Mammals, 25.2: 73-77.

Herzing, D. L. & Johnson, C. M. (1997) Interspecies interactions between Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) and bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Bahamas, 1985-1995. Aquatic Mammals, 23: 85-99.

Johnson, C.M. (1994). Whales and dolphins: Acoustic signals. In R.E. Asher (Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, Vol. 9: pp 4972-80. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Bauer, G.B. & Johnson, C.M. (1994). Trained motor imitation by bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Perceptual and Motor Skills, 79: 1307-1315.

Johnson, C.M. & Norris, K.S. (1994). Social behavior. In K.S. Norris, B. Wursig, R.S. Wells & M. Wursig (Eds.) The Hawaiian Spinner Dolphin. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, pp. 243-286

Johnson, C.M. (1993). Animal communication via coordinated cognitive systems. In P.P.G. Bateson, N. Thompson & P. Klopfer (Eds.) Perspectives in Ethology, Volume X: Variability in Behavior, pp. 187-207. NY: Plenum.

Johnson, C.M. (1990). Evolutionary, comparative, and psycholinguistic investigations on the nature of higher-order cognitive processes. Ph.D. Thesis. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

Site last updated: March 2018