Monday, November 18, 2013

consciousness in animals

Consciousness is a field that I've avoided until now, as I thought it was hardly accessible to scientific method, and even if scientists get a handle on it, they have to work against centuries worth of philosophical baggage.

Recent research, however, has uncovered intriguing traces of consciousness in animals, and even in those that aren't very closely related to us, such as the corvidae. These discoveries make it possible to cut consciousness down into manageable chunks, each with its own animal model, which makes it much more tractable for science.

So, finally, after many years of not covering this field, I wrote a feature about it, which is now out:

Elements of consciousness in animals

Current Biology, Volume 23, Issue 22, R981-R983, 18 November 2013 doi:10.1016/j.cub.2013.10.078

Free access to full text and PDF link

Experimental setup used in Nicola Clayton's lab to study the food-caching behaviour of jays. When jays realise that they have been observed while hiding their food, they come back to the cache to hide it elsewhere. This is particularly common in jays who have themselves been food thieves, suggesting that they can take the perspective of the thief. (Photo: Nicola Clayton.)

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PS: BBC clip of a crow solving a problem in 8 steps.

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