David is generally interested in how and why we (i) are able to know about our own ‘selves’, and (ii) interact with others in positive and/or negative ways with others (i.e., prejudice). David address questions within these interests using a combined developmental, comparative (animals), and evolutionary framework. Below are just some of the current projects of interest if students wish to contact David.

Self-recognition in Psychopathology

Visual self-recognition (i.e., knowing what one’s own self looks like) is subject to various distortions as seen in several types of psychopathology. For example, people with Anorexia Nervosa tend to see their own appearance to be larger than it is in reality, whilst people with Body Dysmorphic Disorder tend to perceive faults in their own appearance that others may not detect. I want to further our understanding about how self-perception occurs in such psychopathologies. Moreover, in collaboration with staff from the University of Melbourne (Dr. Isabel Krug) we are pursuing whether distortions in self-perception can be positively altered via a process known as ‘multisensory stimulation’ to reduce any negative impact that may occur (e.g., people with Anorexia may see themselves realistically rather than being ‘large’).

The Evolution of Empathy

There is much to be gained about our knowledge of the human mind via comparisons to other species. What human abilities are truly unique? What abilities are shared with other species? Why are some abilities unique and others not? In collaboration with staff from LaTrobe University’s Dog Hub (Dr. Tiffani Howell), we are investigating a contentious issue amongst comparative/evolutionary psychologists: do dogs show empirical evidence for empathy? We hope answering such a question will lead to a better understanding of empathy in humans and dogs alike (and indeed, perhaps how dogs and humans interact). Given the increasing use of dogs in therapy, such knowledge may ultimately have clinical implications.  



Cognitive neuroscience; developmental science; comparative science; evolution. 


Research Interests

  • Self-perception
  • Social cognition
  • Inter-group processes

Recent Publications

  • Imafuku, M., Kanakogi, Y., Butler, D., & Myowa, M. (2019). Demystifying infant vocal imitation: The roles of mouth looking and speaker’s gaze. Developmental Science. Published online: https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.12825
  • Kanakogi, Y., Inoue, Y., Matsuda, G., Butler, D., Hiraki, K., & Myowa-Yamakoshi. M. (2017). Preverbal infants affirm third party interventions aiding victims from aggressors, Nature Human Behaviour, 1. Published online: doi:10.1038/s41562-016-0037
  • Butler, D., & Anderson, J. (2018). Visual self-recognition. In The Springer Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior., ed. J. Vonk and T. Shackelford (Eds). Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_742-1
  • Myowa-Yamakoshi, M. & Butler, D. (2017). The evolution of primate attachment: Beyond Bowlby’s rhesus macaques. In: Contextualizing Attachment: The Cultural Nature of Attachment., ed. H. Keller and K. A. Bard. Strüngmann Forum Reports, vol. 22, J. Lupp, series editor. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Butler, D., & Suddendorf, T. (2014). Reducing the neural search space for hominid cognition: What distinguishes human and great ape brains from those of lesser apes? Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. Published online: doi 10.3758/s13423-013-0559-0 
  • Suddendorf, T., & Butler, D. (2014). Are rich interpretations of visual self-recognition a bit too rich? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 18, 58-59.
  • Suddendorf, T. & Butler, D. (2013). The nature of visual self-recognition. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 17, 121-127.
  • Butler, D., Mattingley, J., Cunnington, R., & Suddendorf, T. (2013). Different neural processes accompany self-recognition in photographs across the lifespan: An ERP study using dizygotic twins, PLoS One, 8(9): e72586. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072586