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Richard Coss


  • Ph.D., Comparative Psychology, University of Reading, England
  • M.A., Design, University of California, Los Angeles
  • B.S., Architecture, University of Southern California


Dr. Coss is an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and a faculty member of UC Davis’ Graduate Group in Animal Behavior and Graduate Group in Ecology. Dr. Coss serves as a member of a number of professional organizations, including the Animal Behavior Society, the International Society for Ecological Psychology, and the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology. Dr. Coss also served on the Editorial Advisory Board for Behavioral and Neural Biology.

Research Focus

Dr. Coss has two primary research interests, both of which emphasize evolutionary constraints on perceptual and cognitive processes in humans and other species. The first research area examines issues in the behavioral ecology of small mammals. His research typically examines population differences, predator-prey relations, habitat perception, and social communication. Behavioral development in field and laboratory conditions is a consistent theme throughout his experimental studies;this developmental theme is sometimes complemented with neuro-biological measures. The second program of study concentrates on the development of aesthetic preferences and how these preferences are constrained by human evolutionary history. Research on this topic emphasizes visual perception and creativity and often includes cross-cultural comparisons.

Selected Publications

  • Coss RG (1999). Effects of relaxed natural selection on the evolution of behavior. In S. A. Foster and J.A. Endler (Eds.), Geographic variation in behavior: Perspectives on evolutionary mechanisms. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 180-208.
  • Ramakrishnan U and RG Coss (2000). Recognition of heterospecific alarm vocalizations by bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata). Journal of Comparative Psychology. 114:3-12. 
  • Coss RG and U Ramakrishnan. (2000). Perceptual aspects of leopard recognition by wild bonnet macaques (Maca radiata). Behavior. 137:315-335. 
  • Hanson MT and RG Coss. (2001). Age differences in the response of California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi) to conspecific alarm calls. Ethology. 107:259-275.
  • Coss RG, Marks S, and Ramakrishnan U (2002). Early Environment shapes the development of gaze aversion by wild bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata). Primates43, 217-222. 
  • Coss RG and Moore M (2002). Precocious knowledge of trees as antipredator refuge in preschool children: An examination of aesthetics, attributive judgments and relic sexual dinichism, Ecological Psychology 14, 181-222. 
  • Coss RG and Charles EP (2004). The role of evolutionary hypotheses in psychological research: Instincts, affordances, and relic sex differences. Ecological Psychology 16, 199-236.


Dr. Coss has studied the evolution of behavior, especially antipredator behavior, as related to adaptive variation in populations as well as the developmental,physiological and neurobiological constraints on behavior.  He has taught in the areas of Animal Cognition, Environmental Awareness, Introduction to Psychobiology and Research in Psychobiology.


Dr. Coss has received several awards throughout his career. In 2008, he won the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research. In 1986, Dr. Coss was awarded a NASA Fellowship by the NASA-Ames Research Center.