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Our research spans across causal cognition, mental time travel (episodic-like memory and future planning), and social cognition. We do this by working with different species, such as western scrub-jays, Eurasian jays, rooks, New Caledonian crows, cuttlefish, octopi, squids, and humans. We are also interested in creating bridges between the arts and the sciences.

 

Causal Cognition

Currently, we have a program grant funded by the ERC investigating the development and evolution of causal cognition. Our work focuses on similarities and differences in tool-using and problem-solving tasks in corvids, both the habitual tool-users e.g. New Caledonian crows, and other corvids that do not appear to use tools in the wild, e.g. jays and rooks. We also study causal cognition in children.

 

Mental Time Travel

Our research on mental time travel has span across animal taxa, with studies on Californian scrub-jays, Eurasian jays, New Caledodian crows, cuttlefish and humans. We are specifically interested in understanding how different species plan for the future and how they might inhibit immediate behaviour for future rewards. Currently, we are developing new methodologies that can be used across species, to allow for more comparable research. We are also looking at episodic-like memory, particularly in cuttlefish. Recently, we have started investigating cross-cultural differences (China-UK) in children's cognitive development.

 

Social Cognition

Our work on social cognition has focused on corvids, from studies of alliance formation and post-conflict behaviours in rooks, and food-sharing in jackdaws. Recent work has focused on courtship feeding in Eurasian jays, showing, for instance that males adjust the food type they share with their partner based on her current desire. We are continuing our long-standing research into perspective taking abilities in corvids, and have expanded this work to study perspective taking in humans.

 

 

 

Art and Science

Nicky Clayton, FRS, is a Scientist in Residence at Rambert, the UK's leading dance company, collaborating with Mark Baldwin, OBE, to choreograph works inspired by science ( e.g. Comedy of Change, 2009; Seven for a secret never to be told, 2011; What wild ecstasy, 2012). Clive Wilkins, MMC, is Artist in Residence and a writer and fine art painter, and has recently published a series of novels on memory and mental time travel, the Moustachio Quartet. Nicky and Clive have a Sciences-Arts collaboration, The Captured Thought, that explores the subjective experience of thinking, and its impact on memory and mental time travel. They met on the dance flour. A tango milonga in fact.