Avian cognition and social interaction: Fifty years of advances

Interaction Studies 12 (2):195-207 (2011)
Abstract
The study of animal behavior, and particularly avian behavior, has advanced significantly in the past 50 years. In the early 1960s, both ethologists and psychologists were likely to see birds as simple automatons, incapable of complex cognitive processing. Indeed, the term “avian cognition“ was considered an oxymoron. Avian social interaction was also seen as based on rigid, if sometimes complicated, patterns. The possible effect of social interaction on cognition, or vice versa, was therefore something almost never discussed. Two paradigm shifts—one concerning animal cognition and one concerning social interaction—began to change perceptions in, respectively, the early 1970s and 1980s, but only more recently have researchers actively investigated how these two areas intersect in the study of avian behavior. The fruits of such intersection can be seen in the various papers for this special issue. I provide some brief background material before addressing the striking findings of current projects. In some cases, researchers have adapted early classic methods and in other cases have devised new paradigms, but in all instances have demonstrated avian capacities that were once thought to be the exclusive domain of humans or at least nonhuman primates. Keywords: avian cognition; avian social learning; avian observational learning; avian communication
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