The next talk in the School of Psychology Seminar Series will be held this Friday the 2nd of September at 3pm, room 302 of the McElwain Building. Darren Burke will present new comparative research findings on distinct spatial cognition mechanisms.
Dr Darren Burke
An evolutionary approach to spatial cognition
If we are to understand the evolution of cognitive mechanisms then we need to first find evidence that particular ecological factors in an animal's environment correlate in a predictable way with performance on controlled test of cognitive performance. So far, spatial memory has proved the most convincing source of such correlations, with, for example, food-storing animals usually outperforming non-storing relatives on various test of spatial memory. Despite this, there remains scepticism about the need to postulate specialised cognitive adaptations to explain these performance differences, with ongoing claims that general learning or cognitive mechanisms are sufficient to explain all the observed differences. The current research examines evidence for ecological influences on spatial cognition in three different species; echidnas, nectar-feeding birds and humans. It will be argued that the patterns of performance on the spatial tasks are much better explained by evolved cognitive specialisations than by the operation of general cognitive mechanisms.