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Department of Psychology

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Nicola Clayton is Professor of Comparative Cognition in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge, a Fellow of Clare College and a Fellow of the Royal Society. Her expertise lies in the contemporary study of comparative cognition, integrating a knowledge of both biology and psychology to introduce new ways of thinking about the evolution and development of intelligence in non-verbal animals and pre-verbal children.

Nicky is also the first Scientist in Residence at Rambert (formerly Rambert Dance Company). She collaborates with Mark Baldwin, the Artistic Director, on new choreographic works inspired by science including the Laurence Oliver award winning Comedy of Change, and Seven For A Secret Never To Be Told. Their latest piece, What Wild Ecstasy, saw its London première in May 2012.

Nicky's most recent collaboration is with artist and writer, Clive Wilkins, who is Artist in Residence in the Psychology Department. Together they founded The Captured Thought. This started about three years ago and arose out of their mutual interest in mental time travel, and its consequences for consciousness, identity, memory and creativity. They also regularly dance tango together. You can watch their TEDx talk Conversations Without Words here.


Key publications: 

Atance, C., Louw, A. & Clayton, N. S. (2015). Thinking ahead about where something is needed: New insights about episodic foresight in preschoolers. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 129, 98-109.

MacLean, E. L., Hare, B., Nunn, C. L., Addessi, E., Amici, F., Anderson, R. C., Aureli, F., Baker, J. M., Bania, A. E., Barnard, A. M., Boogert, N. J., Brannon, E. M., Bray, E. E., Brent, L. J. N., Burkart, J. M., Call, J., Cantlon, J. F., Cheke, L. G., Clayton, N. S., Delgado, M. M., DiVencenti, L. J., Fujita, K., Herrmann, E., Hiramatsu, C., Jacobs, L, F., Jordan, K. E., Laude, J. R., Leimgruber, K. L., Messer, E. J. E., Moura, A. C. de A., Ostojić, L., Picard, A., Platt, M. L., Plotnik, J. M. Range, F., Reader, S. M., Reddy, R. B., Sandel, A. A., Santos, L. R., Scgumann, K., Seed, A.M., Sewall, K. B., Shaw, R. C., Slcoombe, K. E., Su, Y., Takinoto, A., Tan, J., Ruoting T., van Schaik, C. P., Virányi, Z., Visalberghi, E., Wade, J. C., Watanabe, A., Widness, J., Young, J., Zantall, T. R., Zhaom Y. (2014). The Evolution of Self Control. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111.20 (2014): E2140-E2148. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1323533111

Shaw, R. C. & Clayton, N. S. (2014). Pilfering Eurasian jays use visual and acoustic inofrmation to locate caches. Animal Cognition, 17, 1281-1288.

Taylor, A. H., Cheke, L. G., Waismeyer, A., Meltzoff, A., Miller, R., Gopnik, A., Clayton, N. S. & Gray, R. D. (2014). Of babies and birds: complex tool behaviours are not sufficient for the evolution of the ability to create a novel causal intervention. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B, 281, 20140837.

Clayton, N. S. (2014). EPS Mid Career Award Lecture. Ways of Thinking: From Crows to Children and Back Again. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, in press. Published online sept 2014. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2014.943673

Ostojic, L., Shaw, R. C., Cheke, L. G. & Clayton, N. S. (2013). Evidence suggesting that desire-state attribution may govern food sharing in Eurasian jays. Proceedings of the National Academy of. Science, 1101, 4123-4128.

Shaw, R. C. & Clayton, N. S. (2013). Careful cachers and prying pilferers: Eurasian jays (Garrulus glandarius) limit auditory information available to competitors. Proceedings of the Royal Society, 280 (1752), 1-7.

Cheke, L. C. & Clayton, N. S. (2012). Eurasian jays (Garrulus glandarius) overcome their current desires to anticipate two distinct future needs and plan for them appropriately. Biology Letters, 8, 171-175.

Seed, A. M., Call, J. Emery, N. J. & Clayton, N. S. (2009). Chimpanzees solve the trap problem when the confound of tool-use is removed. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 35, 23-34.

Russell, J. Alexis, D. M. & Clayton, N. S. (2009). Episodic future thinking in 3- to 5- year-old-children: The ability to think of what will be needed from a different point of view. Cognition, 114, 56-71.

Stulp, G., Emery, N. J., Verhulst, S. & Clayton, N. S. (2009). Western scrub-jays conceal auditory information when competitors can hear but cannot see. Biology Letters, 5, 583-585.

Raby, C. R., Alexis, D. M., Dickinson, A. & Clayton, N. S. (2007). Planning for the future by Western Scrub-Jays. Nature 445, 919-921. See also Shettleworth, S. J. News and Views, Nature 445, 826-828. And Morell, V. Nicola Clayton Profile: Nicky and the Jays. Science, 315, 1074-1075.

Dally, J. M., Emery, N. J. & Clayton, N. S. (2006). Food-caching western scrubjays keep track of who was watching when. Science, 312, 1662-1665.

Emery, N. J. & Clayton, N. S. (2004). The mentality of crows. Convergent evolution of intelligence in corvids and apes. Science, 306, 1903-1907.

Emery, N. J. & Clayton, N. S. (2001). Effects of experience and social context on prospective caching strategies in scrub jays. Nature 414, 443–446. See also Nature, 447, 349.

Clayton, N. S. & Dickinson, A. (1998). Episodic-like memory during cache recovery by scrub jays. Nature 395, 272-278. See Jeffrey, K. & O’Keefe, J. News and Views. Nature 395, 215-216.

Professor of Comparative Cognition
Scientist in Residence at Rambert
Co-founder of The Captured Thought
Person keywords: 
cognitive development
comparative cognition in animals
Takes PhD students
Not available for consultancy