Scheme: University Research Fellowship
Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Dates: Oct 2007-Sep 2010
Summary: Throughout my fellowship, my research has focused on the cognitive abilities of corvids (members of the crow family) and primates (great apes). My initial focus was on comparative social cognition or how animals process information (i.e. their relationships and past history) about members of their social group, whether they can use social cues to predict other's future behaviour (theory of mind) and how they use such information during competitive situations, such as protecting caches from potential thieves. We have recently expanded this work to investigate whether social cognition evolved to aid in cooperation and pair bonding (relationship intelligence) rather than deception and competition (Machiavellian intelligence). More recently, my research has turned to physical cognition, especially the role of causal reasoning and imagination in understanding the properties of objects, including tools. Our work has had a major effect on changing many scientists' and the general public's opinions of crows, and birds more generally. They are no longer seen as 'bird brains', rather 'feathered apes'. Our proposal that crows are as intelligent as apes through a process of convergent evolution has been especially important in this regard. We are now closer than ever to determining what may have driven the evolution of intelligence in a wide variety of animals, from chimps and crows to elephants, dolphins and even man. Our work has the potential to change people's perceptions of animals including animals that they would recently have classified as vermin or pests, but also policy on the use of all animals in captivity and their cognitive needs. To this end, we are currently looking into ways of getting the public engaged with their own pets and the animals around them, ways that should enhance the lives of the animals themselves, but also the people who have made animals part of their lives.
Organisation: University of Cambridge
Dates: Oct 2002-Sep 2007
Summary: This project summary is not available for publication.