Speaker biography

Professor Cecilia Heyes was trained as an experimental psychologist at University College London. As a Harkness Fellow in the United States Cecilia studied evolutionary epistemology with Donald T Campbell and philosophy of mind with Daniel Dennet, before spending a second postdoctoral period studying associative learning as a Research Fellow of Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge, and then returning to UCL as a member of faculty in 1988.

The next 20 years were focussed on experimental work, initially in animal cognition and later in cognitive neuroscience. In the later years Cecilia’s group developed and tested an associative account of the origins of imitation and the mirror neuron system. In 2008 Cecilia left UCL to become a Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, University of Oxford. Here she is concentrating on theoretical work while collaborating in experimental projects in Oxford and elsewhere.

Cecilia’s work concerns the evolution of cognition. It explores the ways in which natural selection, learning, developmental and cultural processes combine to produce the mature cognitive abilities found in adult humans. Cecilia is especially interested in social cognition. Most of her current projects examine the possibility that the neurocognitive mechanisms enabling cultural inheritance - social learning, imitation, mirror neurons, mind reading etc - are themselves products of cultural evolution.


Cecilia Heyes will give this year’s Chandaria Lectures at the Institute of Philosophy on the 8th, 12th and 15th of December.