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Convergent evolution of complex cognition: Insights from the field of avian cognition into the study of self-awareness

Authors
  • Baciadonna, Luigi1, 2
  • Cornero, Francesca M.2
  • Emery, Nathan J.1
  • Clayton, Nicola S.2
  • 1 Queen Mary University of London, London, UK , London (United Kingdom)
  • 2 University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EB, UK , Cambridge (United Kingdom)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Learning & Behavior
Publisher
Springer US
Publication Date
Jul 13, 2020
Volume
49
Issue
1
Pages
9–22
Identifiers
DOI: 10.3758/s13420-020-00434-5
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Article
License
Yellow

Abstract

Pioneering research on avian behaviour and cognitive neuroscience have highlighted that avian species, mainly corvids and parrots, have a cognitive tool kit comparable with apes and other large-brained mammals, despite conspicuous differences in their neuroarchitecture. This cognitive tool kit is driven by convergent evolution, and consists of complex processes such as casual reasoning, behavioural flexibility, imagination, and prospection. Here, we review experimental studies in corvids and parrots that tested complex cognitive processes within this tool kit. We then provide experimental examples for the potential involvement of metacognitive skills in the expression of the cognitive tool kit. We further expand the discussion of cognitive and metacognitive abilities in avian species, suggesting that an integrated assessment of these processes, together with revised and multiple tasks of mirror self-recognition, might shed light on one of the most highly debated topics in the literature—self-awareness in animals. Comparing the use of multiple assessments of self-awareness within species and across taxa will provide a more informative, richer picture of the level of consciousness in different organisms.

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