Spatial Memory in Seed-Caching Corvids

Alan C. Kamil, Russell P. Balda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


This chapter reviews that traditionally, the psychological study of animal learning and memory has been conducted in laboratory settings with little reference to the natural history, ecology, or evolution of the species being studied. The emphasis has been on identifying and understanding processes that are general across species and paradigms. There seemed to be an assumption that investigating cognitive processes in natural settings was a poor strategy because of the danger of concentrating on “special” abilities, limited to specific biological settings. Biologists emphasized genetic contributions to behavior, deemphasizing the general role of learning. The chapter discusses that in the last 20-25 years, however, a variety of phenomena have undermined the assumptions of both psychologists and biologists. In psychology, phenomena such as species-specific defensive reactions, autoshaping, and taste-aversion learning have shown that the biology of animals can and does affect the outcome of research using the traditional, arbitrary responses studied in psychological experiments on learning and memory. In biology, as in psychology, one approach is to study general processes. Following this approach, one selects the species for study on the basis of convenience or because it has some desirable characteristic, such as short generation time. It is the approach that has dominated animal psychology. However, an alternative approach in biology looks at the organisms as well as their interactions with their environments. In this approach, species and problems for study based upon natural history and ecology are selected. This chapter reviews the results of the studies of the mechanisms underlying cache recovery by members of the crow, jay, and nutcracker family.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalPsychology of Learning and Motivation - Advances in Research and Theory
Issue numberC
StatePublished - Jan 1 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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