PerspectiveCognition

A raven's memories are for the future

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Science  14 Jul 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6347, pp. 126-127
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan8802

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Summary

The human brain stores memories of past events to guide decision-making about current and future events. Researchers long assumed that animals do not use memories in this way but rather exist in a constant stream of present needs, unable to plan for the future (1). Studies on nonhuman primates and corvids challenge this view and show that some species can plan for the future at least as well as 4-year old children (2, 3). These results suggest that planning for the future is not uniquely human and evolved independently in distantly related species to address common problems (4). On page 202 of this issue, Kabadayi and Osvath (5) show that ravens anticipate the nature, time, and location of a future event based on previous experiences. The ravens' behavior is not merely prospective, anticipating future states (6); rather, they flexibly apply future planning in behaviors not typically seen in the wild.