Explanations for variation in cognitive ability: Behavioural ecology meets comparative cognition

Susan Denise Healy, I. E. Bacon, O. Haggis, A. P. Harris, L. A. Kelley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Sara Shettleworth has played a defining role in the development of animal cognition and its integration into other parts of biology, especially behavioural ecology. Here we chart some of that progress in understanding the causes and importance of variation in cognitive ability and highlight how Tinbergen's levels of explanation provide a useful framework for this field. We also review how experimental design is crucial in investigating cognition and stress the need for naturalistic experiments and field studies. We focus particularly on the example of the relationship among food hoarding, spatial cognition and hippocampal structure, and review the conflicting evidence for sex differences in spatial cognition. We finish with speculation that a combination of Tinbergen and Shettleworth-style approaches would be the way to grapple with the as-yet unanswered questions of why birds mimic heterospecifics. (C) 2008 Published by Elsevier B.V.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-294
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioural Processes
Volume80
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009

Keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Natural selection
  • Cognition
  • Shettleworth
  • FOOD-STORING BIRDS
  • SPATIAL WORKING-MEMORY
  • WATER MAZE PERFORMANCE
  • HUMMINGBIRDS SELASPHORUS-RUFUS
  • TRIAL ASSOCIATIVE MEMORY
  • DENDRITIC SPINE DENSITY
  • BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES
  • TITS PARUS-PALUSTRIS
  • OPEN-FIELD TASK
  • SEX-DIFFERENCES

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