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At the moment, we have three ongoing projects:

1. INGREDIENTS OF COMPLEX PHYSICAL COGNITION
– comparisons between crow birds and great apes

All “why” and “how” questions are about the causal structure of the world. Finding causes and their effects is a central endeavour in all of science and philosophy, and in our everyday lives. Although many researchers have claimed that animals also have complex causal cognition, or conversely not at all, the evidence has been very ambiguous. The aim of this project is to investigate to what extent animals have causal cognition (it is a multifaceted ability after all), with a focus on weight as an unobservable, causal phenomenon. Weight is a ubiquitous and relevant property, but animals might not require a higher-order understanding of it to use its perceptual aspects successfully in everyday life. We are running several tests on ravens and great apes. These distantly related species were chosen because they have similar complex cognitive skills, and investigating their independent evolution is another part of this project. PhD-student: Ivo Jacobs.
This project is financed by the Crafoord foundation.

2. PLANNING IN CORVIDS AND GREAT APES
This project investigates future-oriented cognition (i.e. planning, foresight) in corvids (crow birds) and great apes in order to better understand the nature of complex cognition and to deepen our knowledge about the evolution of human foresight abilities. The research on great apes is aimed to give insight on the evolution and the time of occurance of the foresight ability in the primate lineage whereas the research on corvids will shed light on the independent evolution of cognitive foresight and the principles of complex cognition. The research aims to better understand the building blocks of complex cognition and thus aims to incorporate developmental and neurobiological studies to gain knowledge on the underlying mechanisms behind the independently evolved cognitive abilities in different species. PhD-student: Can Kabadayi.

This project is financed by the Swedish Research Council.

3. THE SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE HYPOTHESIS AND THE EPISODIC MEMORY SYSTEM
– the role of memories in the social skills of cognitively complex animals

 

The overarching purpose of this project is to investigate the role of memory systems, in particular episodic memory, in complex social life, and thereby provide new insights into the evolution of complex cognition.

In this project the role of memory will be investigated in studies relating to reciprocal altruism, indirect reciprocity, preferences of others and habits of others. The set ups on reciprocal altruism and preferences of others are based on potential memories of interactions with someone else, while the set ups on indirect reciprocity and habits of others are based on the potential memories from merely observing others. Within these aims several questions may be answered: Do ravens rely on indirect or generalized reciprocity in their interactions? Are ravens able to infer and remember the emotional states of others and use this information in first-person encounters with those who inflicted the emotional states in others? Are ravens and chimpanzees able to remember the preferences of specific individuals, and if so, how many? Can ravens remember the habits of specific individuals and use this information for their own benefit, and if so, how many can they remember?

This project – financed by the Swedish Research Council and the European Research Council – is a collaboration between Lund University and the University of Vienna, which allows testing of more animals from different populations. This is important as ravens represent a central model species in the non-primate study of social cognition. PhD-student: Katarzyna Bobrowicz.