Me Human @ Royal Society

Summer Science Exhibition 2024

Join us this summer as Me, Human showcases cutting-edge research investigating how we became (through evolution) … and become (through development)… the upright walking, talking, tool-using great apes that we are today.

Our flagship exhibit will be open to the public from the 2nd to 7th July at the Royal Society in London -featuring two interactive activities that will encourage visitors to consider how our brains and behaviours are shaped by evolution and development, allowing us to acquire human-unique social and communication skills.

Our team of experienced scientists, led by Professor Gillian Forrester from the University of Sussex, invites you to participate in The Great Ape Challenge and Baby Boogie! These engaging, interactive activities hinge on innovative and ground-breaking science that focuses on who we are as humans within the natural world. We explore how and why the way we move our bodies and interact with objects takes us on a journey from action to thought, underpinning our most precious human abilities.

The Great Ape Challenge

Can you outsmart an orangutan? Are you more gifted than a gorilla or more competent than a chimpanzee? Compete against friends or close and distant primate relatives in The Great Ape Challenge!

The Great Ape Challenge showcases the Hand to Mouth project funded by the Leverhulme Trust. This research focuses on how we use our hands to solve problems. We theorise that activities like tool-using and food preparation were important for the evolution of language in that they all require putting actions in the right order to reach a goal. The neuroscience supports this theory. Studies show that the same brain regions are involved in sign language, verbal speech and tool-use! We ask, ‘How good are non-human apes at solving problems with their hands and could we have inherited this skill from a common ancient ancestor shared with chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans?’

The Hand to Mouth research project examines this theory with puzzle-solving games for all great apes, including humans! Check out some of our recent participants in the gallery below.

Find out more about the research behind The Great Ape Challenge. Watch the New Scientist bite size documentary: The language puzzle: What great apes can teach us about language or read a New Scientist interview with Professor Gillian Forrester about Why Humans are the Only Talking Apes.

Baby Boogie!

Get ready to move it move it!

Baby Boogie! challenges you and a competitor to test your movement skills against those of a new born infant. Early reflexive movements can look like babies are dancing. Can you match your movements to our life-sided baby projections? With complex and unpredictable movements being a sign of healthy development, I’m betting on baby!

Baby Boogie! showcases research from the Baby Grow project, funded by the Simons Foundation. Baby Boogie! continue the theme of movement with an interactive exhibit that demonstrates how social development can be traced back to how we move our bodies during the first days of life. Research suggests that new born movements are not only about learning how to get around, they also predict our social skills as children and as adults.

We’re using motion sensors and computer modelling to identify the key features of healthy movement repertoires that help babies develop skills for navigating our complex physical and social world. Importantly, we aim to reveal motion characteristics that help to identify infants at risk for neurodivergent conditions with social symptoms earlier than ever before. Find out more about the research behind Baby Boogie! See Professor Forrester interviewed on BBC’s Brain Hacks.

More Information

Follow the links below to find out more about Professor Gillian Forrester and the Me, Human team.

Find out more about Professor Gillian Forrester, her research publications and media activities

Find out more about the Me, Human project, previous and upcoming events and news

For information specifically about Me, Human at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, please email Jane Waller: janemwaller@gmail.com

For media enquiries, please contact: Alice Ingall, Media Relations Manager, University of Sussex: press@sussex.ac.uk or phone: 01273 877966, out of hours (07826 391054)