Spatial cognition refers to how an individual encodes the properties of its environment in order to orient and navigate. This is an essential ability for ambulatory animals (including humans) to locate food, mates, and home. Our lab studies what stimuli are important for re-orientation and navigation and how the preferential use of these stimuli change across species, age, and sex. We explore the biological and cognitive mechanisms underlying this ability, and what they mean for theories of navigation. Some examples of the kinds of research questions related to spatial cognition that we ask in our lab are:
- How are featural and geometric cues used to guide reorientation?
- How do Clark's nutcrackers locate their tens of thousands of seed caches?
- How does Alzheimer's disease affect navigation ability in older adults?
Living in large social groups has traditionally been thought to be the primary evolutionary precursor to complex cognitive abilities. This assumption was based on the impressive cognitive abilities of social living species. However, rarely have non-social species been studied. Our lab investigates how the sociality of a species influences the behaviour and cognitive abilities of our study species. Work conducted on this topic in our lab has included:
- How do the food cache-protection strategies of social and non-social birds differ?
- How does sociality influence cognitive abilities such as Same/Different discrimination?
- What are the prerequisites and mechanisms of mirror self-recognition?
- How does personality influence an individual's cognitive abilities?
- Which factors underlie self-control?
Dogs are an integral aspect of many people’s lives, and research regarding canine cognition is applicable to all who interact daily with dogs. As dogs have evolved side-by-side with humans for tens of thousands of years, the bond between humans and dogs are incredibly strong. In particular our laboratory is interested in:
- How does the rearing of dogs influence their cognitive abilities?
- How do dogs and their owners communicate their emotions and ideas to one another?
- In what ways does a human’s stress influence their dog’s stress?