At the Avian Cognition Center, we investigate perception, foraging, and
social behavior in birds, particularly corvids and parrots. Some of our studies
have made use of wild populations, but we have also observed and recorded captive
birds in aviary settings and operant boxes. Our primary emphasis has been on
the exploration of cognitive representations, which are mental structures that
reflect essential features of the outside world. An animal's cognitive representations
enable it to model aspects of the world that are not immediately accessible to its
senses, so it can make inferences about such things as the relationships between
unfamiliar individuals or the location of concealed food resources.
This research focus has allowed us to conduct rigorous studies of the evolution of
behavior, because closely related bird species often show striking differences in
the way that they forage for food and structure their societies. Our work at the
Center for Avian Cognition has involved a range of field and laboratory studies that
integrate psychological and biological perspectives, exploring cognitive mechanisms
that were molded by evolution in response to particular ecological demands.
Since 1992, our research has been funded by grants from the National Institutes of
Health, the National Science Foundation, and the National Geographic Society.