Custance, Deborah
Department of Psychology
Dr Deborah Custance BSc PhD

Summary of research

Developmental-comparative psychology with special emphasis on social evolution of culture in humans and animals and the dog-human bond.

Academic qualifications



Dr Deborah Custance BSc PhD

Position held:


+44 (0)20

7919 7897

+44 (0)20 7919 7873

d.custance (

Room 203/1 Whitehead Building,
Psychology Department,
Goldsmiths, University of London,
New Cross, SE14 6NW

Summary of research

Developmental-comparative psychology with special emphasis on social evolution of culture in humans and animals and the dog-human bond.

Academic qualifications


Research interests

My main research area is 'comparative-developmental psychology' which involves the study of human and non-human primate behaviour based on frameworks drawn from developmental and evolutionary psychology. I am particularly interested in Social Intelligence and much of my research to date has focused on complex forms of social learning such as imitation. Before coming to Goldsmiths I conducted experiments on the imitation of arbitrary gestures by young chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Also in collaboration with a number of colleagues, I designed an 'artificial fruit' processing task which has, so far, been presented to human children and adults (Homo sapiens), chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), gorillas (Gorilla gorilla),  orang-utans (Pongo pygmaeus), pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina), laboratory-raised and hand-raised tufted capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella), common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus), and even the giant New Zealand parrot, the kea (Nestor notables).

More recently, I have conducted research in Zoo Atlanta on program-level imitation in orang-utans. I was also funded by The British Academy to visit Berenty Reserve in Madagascar for three months to study the effect of social dynamics on social transmission in wild ring-tailed lemurs.

In a relatively new research area for me, I have embarked upon an ESRC funded research project on object-directed imitation in children with autism.

Finally, I have pursued a quite different line of research on the dog-human bond. Along with a group of Italian colleagues and my postgraduate student, Robyn Palmer, we used Ainsworth’s strange situation procedure to investigate whether the dog-human bond is consistent with infantile attachment.

Selected publications

Number of items: 13.


Custance, Deborah M., Mayer, Jennifer L., Kumar, Emmelianna, Hill, Elisabeth L. and Heaton, Pam F.. 2013. Do Children With Autism Re-Enact Object Movements Rather Than Imitate Demonstrator Actions? Autism Research, 7(1), pp. 28-39. ISSN 1939-3792 [Article]

Custance, Deborah M., Swami, Viren, Henderson, Grant and Tovée, Martin J.. 2011. A Cross-Cultural Investigation of Men’s Judgments of Female Body Weight in Britain and Indonesia. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 42(1), pp. 140-145. ISSN 0022-0221 [Article]

Custance, Deborah M., Kendal, Rachel L., Kendal, Jeremy R., Vale, Gillian, Stoinski, Tara S., Rakotomalala, Nirina Lalaina and Rasamimanana, Hantanirina. 2010. Evidence for social learning in wild lemurs (Lemur catta). Learning & Behavior, 38(3), pp. 220-234. ISSN 1543-4494 [Article]

Custance, Deborah M., Prato Previde, E., Spiezio, C. and Rigamonti, M.. 2006. Social Learning in Pig-Tailed Macaques (Macaca nemestrina) and Adult Humans (Homo sapiens) on a Two-Action Artificial Fruit. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 120(3), pp. 303-313. ISSN 07357036 [Article]

Custance, Deborah M., Prato Previde, E. and Spiezio, C.. 2005. Testing for localized stimulus enhancement and object movement re-enactment in pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina) and young children (Homo sapiens). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 119(3), pp. 257-272. ISSN 07357036 [Article]

Custance, Deborah M., Whiten, A. and Fredman, T.. 2002. Social learning and primate reintroduction. International Journal of Primatology, 23(3), pp. 479-499. ISSN 01640291 [Article]

Custance, Deborah M., Whiten, A., Sambrook, T. and Galdikas, B.. 2001. Testing for social learning in the artificial fruit processing of wildborn orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus), Tanjung Puting, Indonesia. Animal Cognition, 4(3-4), pp. 305-313. ISSN 14359448 [Article]

Custance, Deborah M., Whiten, Andrew and Fredman, Tamar. 1999. Social learning of an artificial fruit task in capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 113(1), pp. 13-23. ISSN 0735-7036 [Article]

Whiten, Andrew, Custance, Deborah M., Gomez, Juan-Carlos, Teixidor, Patricia and Bard, Kim. 1996. Imitative learning of artificial fruit processing in children (Homo sapiens) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 110(1), pp. 3-14. ISSN 0735-7036 [Article]

Custance, Deborah M., Whiten, Andrew and Bard, Kim. 1995. Can young chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) imitate arbitrary actions? Hayes & Hayes (1952) revisited. Behaviour, 132(11/12), 837 -859 . ISSN 0005-7959 [Article]

Book Section

Whiten, Andrew and Custance, Deborah M.. 1996. Studies of imitation in chimpanzees and children. In: Cecilia M. Heyes and Bennett G. Galef, eds. Social learning in animals. The roots of culture. San Diego, USA: Academic Press, pp. 291-318. ISBN 0122739655 [Book Section]

This list was generated on Fri Apr 24 23:17:48 2015 BST.

Content last modified: 23 Sep 2013

Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, London, SE14 6NW, UK
Telephone: + 44 (0)20 7919 7171

Goldsmiths has charitable status

© 2000- Goldsmiths, University of London. Copyright, Disclaimer and Company information | Statement on the use of cookies by Goldsmiths