Friday, July 02, 2010

The Science Network - Nicola Clayton on Comparative Cognition

Nicola Clayton researches bird intelligence, especially corvids, which means I would most certainly like her. In this interview she talks about her life and work.
Nicola Clayton is a Professor of Comparative Cognition, Fellow of the Royal Society, Departmental Graduate Tutor and Chair of the Graduate Education Committee and Director of Studies in Natural Sciences for Clare College at the University of Cambridge School of the Biological Sciences in the Department of Experimental Psychology. Her research is focused on comparative cognition at the interface between animal behavior and experimental psychology and neuroscience.

Here is the abstract to one of her papers:

Science 10 December 2004:
Vol. 306. no. 5703, pp. 1903 - 1907
DOI: 10.1126/science.109841


The Mentality of Crows: Convergent Evolution of Intelligence in Corvids and Apes

Nathan J. Emery1* and Nicola S. Clayton2

Discussions of the evolution of intelligence have focused on monkeys and apes because of their close evolutionary relationship to humans. Other large-brained social animals, such as corvids, also understand their physical and social worlds. Here we review recent studies of tool manufacture, mental time travel, and social cognition in corvids, and suggest that complex cognition depends on a "tool kit" consisting of causal reasoning, flexibility, imagination, and prospection. Because corvids and apes share these cognitive tools, we argue that complex cognitive abilities evolved multiple times in distantly related species with vastly different brain structures in order to solve similar socioecological problems.

1 Sub-Department of Animal Behaviour, University of Cambridge, CB3 8AA, UK.
2 Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, CB2 3EB, UK.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:

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