Graduate Student Excellence-in-Research Award 2012
Qing Liu, a recent doctoral graduate in psychology, studies wild capuchin monkeys and their skilled use of stone tools to crack tough palm nuts, a phenomenon that was discovered just seven years ago and has been studied by Liu’s team since 2005. She used a laborious manual coding procedure to track points on the monkeys’ bodies through time, coding points on each field of video in stop-motion playback. Her kinematic analysis is the first such study of manual actions in wild primates, and she has continued her work through a series of field experiments, the results of which were published in “Animal Behavior,” the premier journal in the field. Her research is broadly relevant to the more general topic of how primates explore affordances of objects in problem-solving situations using their limbs and hands, particularly in tool-using situations where indirect relations between tool and the target of action must be noticed and managed.