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Appears in Collections:Biological and Environmental Sciences Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Why study cognition in the wild (and how to test it)?
Author(s): Pritchard, David J
Hurly, T Andrew
Tello‐Ramos, Maria C
Healy, Susan D
Keywords: field experiments
spatial cognition
comparative cognition
behavioral ecology
cognitive ecology
Issue Date: Jan-2016
Citation: Pritchard DJ, Hurly TA, Tello‐Ramos MC & Healy SD (2016) Why study cognition in the wild (and how to test it)?. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 105 (1), pp. 41-55.
Abstract: An animal's behavior is affected by its cognitive abilities, which are, in turn, a consequence of the environment in which an animal has evolved and developed. Although behavioral ecologists have been studying animals in their natural environment for several decades, over much the same period animal cognition has been studied almost exclusively in the laboratory. Traditionally, the study of animal cognition has been based on well-established paradigms used to investigate well-defined cognitive processes. This allows identification of what animals can do, but may not, however, always reflect what animals actually do in the wild. As both ecologists and some psychologists increasingly try to explain behaviors observable only in wild animals, we review the different motivations and methodologies used to study cognition in the wild and identify some of the challenges that accompany the combination of a naturalistic approach together with typical psychological testing paradigms. We think that studying animal cognition in the wild is likely to be most productive when the questions addressed correspond to the species’ ecology and when laboratory cognitive tests are appropriately adapted for use in the field. Furthermore, recent methodological and technological advances will likely allow significant expansion of the species and questions that can be addressed in the wild.
DOI Link: 10.1002/jeab.195
Rights: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Pritchard, D.J., Hurly, T.A., Tello-Ramos, M.C. and Healy, S.D. (2016), Why study cognition in the wild (and how to test it)?. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 105: 41-55, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
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