Dr Lauren Brent
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow


I study the evolution of sociality and ask why social relationships are formed and how they are maintained. Within groups of animals, individuals differ in their tendency to interact with others and in how deeply embedded they are in their social networks. Investigating these differences allows me to determine the genetic and physiological causes of sociality, as well as its impact on Darwinian fitness. My research is centred on wild or free-ranging populations with long-term datasets that permit me to quantify inter-individual differences in sociality, relatedness, survival and reproductive output.

Much of my work is focused on a highly gregarious primate, the rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta), where I have provided some of the first evidence of the fitness benefits of sociality, showing that the infants of individuals who are more deeply embedded in their social network are more likely to survive, and females with larger families live longer. I have also shown that an individual’s position in their social network is heritable, confirming that sociality is under genetic control and is a trait on which selection may act. I am also currently (or have recently been) involved in projects on other social mammals, including vampire bats, elephants, dairy cows, and killer whales.

I am member of the Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour. Additional details about my research can be found at laurenbrent.com.

Latest news: Read my conversation about the benefits of social ties across the lifespan with Lydia Denworth in Psychology Today. Read my New Scientist article about the science of friendship, and watch my TED talk on the same topic.


2006-2010: PhD in Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Roehampton
2003-2005: Master of Arts in Anthropology, University of Calgary
1999-2003: Bachelor of Science, Biology, McGill University


2019-         Lecturer in Animal Behaviour, University of Exeter
2016-2019: Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour, University of Exeter
2014-2016: Associate Research Fellow, University of Exeter
2010-2014: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University.

Research group links

Contact details

Internal tel4799
Tel+44 (0) 1392 724799
AddressWashington Singer Laboratories
University of Exeter
Perry Road
Prince of Wales Road
Office hours

Tuesdays 13:45-14:45; Fridays 14:30-15-30

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