Karen Hollis

Professor of Psychology and Education


  • B.A., Slippery Rock State College
  • Ph.D., University of Minnesota

Courses Taught

  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Animal Behavior
  • Introduction to Learning and Motivation
  • Laboratory in Animal Behavior
  • Seminar in the Biological Bases of Behavior


Generally the goal of my research is to integrate the study of animal learning (predominantly a psychological approach) and animal behavior (predominantly a biological approach).  Currently my students and I are researching the role of learning in ants' ability to evade an insect predator, namely antlions, larval insects that dig pits to trap their prey (and are so-named because ants are frequent prey items). In addition, my lab group collaborates with researchers at the University of Paris 13 to study rescue behavior in ants, which rescue nestmates that have fallen into antlions’ pit traps. Our goal is to understand the predator-prey relationship between ants and antlions. In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, kayaking, cross-country skiing.

Selected Publications

Nowbahari, E., Scohier, A., Durand, J.-L., & Hollis, K.L. (2009). Ants, Cataglyphis cursor, use precisely directed rescue behavior to free entrapped relatives. PLoS ONE 4(8): e6573. (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006573)

Hollis, K. L., Cogswell, H., Snyder, K., Guillette, L. M. & Nowbahari, E. (2011). Specialized learning in antlions, pit-dwelling insect predators, shortens vulnerable larval stage. PLoS ONE, 6(3), e17958. (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017958)

Vasconcelos, M., Hollis, K., Nowbahari, E. & Kacelnik, A. (2012). Pro-sociality without empathy. Biology Letters, 8, published online before print, August 1, 2012. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0554

Hollis, K. L. & Nowbahari, E. (2013). A comparative analysis of precision rescue behavior in sand-dwelling ants. Animal Behaviour, 85, 537-544. (doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.12.005)

Hollis, K.L., Harrsch, F. A. & Nowbahari, E. (2015). Ants vs. antlions: An insect model for studying the role of learned and hard-wired behavior in coevolution. Learning & Motivation, 50, 68-82.

Hollis, K.L. & Guillette, L.M. (2015). What associative learning in insects tells us about models for the evolution of learning. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 28, 1-18.

News Links

Wall Street Journal: “Can a Rat Feel My Pain? The Riddle of Empathy” by Matt Ridley from his MIND & MATTER column, August 10, 2012.

 "Hollis to Head APA’s Third Division," Office of Communications, November 16, 2010

 "MHC's Hollis Edits Special Issue of Journal," Office of Communications, February 20, 2009

APA Monitor on Psychology, (“Upfront” section)
Ants to the rescue
By Sadie F. Dingfelder, November 2009

 "MHC's Hollis: Ants to the Rescue?" Natural History, November 16, 2009