DEC Colloquium

Ways of Thinking From Crows To Children And Back Again

Practical information
03 May 2016


This article reviews some of the recent work on the remarkable cognitive capacities of food-caching corvids. The focus will be on their ability to think about other minds and other times, and tool-using tests of physical problem solving. Research on developmental cognition suggests that young children do not pass similar tests until they are at least four years of age in the case of the social cognition experiments, and eight years of age in the case of the tasks that tap into physical cognition. This developmental trajectory seems surprising. Intuitively, one might have thought that the social and planning tasks required more complex forms of cognitive process, namely Mental Time Travel and Theory of Mind. Perhaps the fact that children pass these tasks earlier than the physical problem-solving tasks is a reflection of cultural influences. Future research will hope to identify these cognitive milestones by starting to develop tasks that might go some way towards understanding the mechanisms underlying these abilities in both children and corvids, to explore similarities and differences in their ways of thinking. 

Clayton, N. S. (2014). EPS Mid Career Award Lecture. Ways of Thinking: From Crows to Children and Back Again. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 68, 209-241.