skip to content

Cambridge Centre for the Integration of Science, Technology and Culture

 

Our research spans across causal cognition, mental time travel (episodic-like memory and future planning), social cognition, art and science, and so on. We do this by working with different species, such as western scrub-jays, Eurasian jays, rooks, New Caledonian crows, cuttlefish, octopi, squids, and humans. We are also interested in creating bridges between the arts and the sciences. 

 

Causal Cognition 

Currently, we have a program grant that was funded by the ERC investigating the development and evolution of causal cognition. Our work focuses on similarities and differences in tool-using and problem-solving tasks in corvids, both the habitual tool-users e.g. New Caledonian crows, and other corvids that do not appear to use tools in the wild, e.g. jays and rooks. We also study causal cognition in children. 

 

Mental Time Travel and Cross Cultural Differences (China-UK) in children’s cognitive development

Our research on mental time travel (memory for the past and planning for the future) spans across animal taxa, with studies on Californian scrub-jays, Eurasian jays, New Caledodian crows, cuttlefish and humans. We are specifically interested in understanding how different species plan for the future and how they might inhibit immediate behaviour for future rewards. Currently, we are developing new methodologies that can be used across species, to allow for more comparable research. We are also investigating episodic-like memory and future oriented foraging decisions in cuttlefish. Recently, we have started investigating cross-cultural differences (China-UK) in children's cognitive development. 

 

Social Cognition 

Our work on social cognition has focused on corvids, from studies of alliance formation and post-conflict behaviours in rooks, and food-sharing in jackdaws. Recent work has focused on courtship feeding in Eurasian jays, showing, for instance that males adjust the food type they share with their partner based on her current desire. We are continuing our long-standing research into perspective taking abilities in corvids, and have expanded this work to study perspective taking in humans. 

 

Art and Science 

Nicky Clayton, FRS, is a Scientist in Residence at Rambert, the UK's leading dance company, collaborating with Mark Baldwin, OBE, developing 

choreographic ideas for dance pieces inspired by science e.g. Comedy of Change, 2009; Seven for a secret never to be told, 2011; What wild ecstasy, 2012; The Strange Charm of Mother Nature (2014); The Creation (2016); (G)Rave (2019). Clive Wilkins, MMC, is Artist in Residence at the University of Cambridge. He is a writer and fine art painter, and has recently published a series of novels on memory and mental time travel, the Moustachio Quartet. Nicky and Clive have a Science-Arts collaboration, The Captured Thought, that explores the subjective experience of thinking, and its impact on memory and mental time travel. They met on the dance flour: A tango milonga in fact. 

 

Memory 

Our research on Memory would involve an exploration of autobiographical memory. This is conducted by investigating the phenomenon of false memory and its implications for the subjectivity of memory and evaluating one's memories (Art) using a variety of artistic practices and evidences through drawings, words, photographs, film... 

 

Future Planning 

This would research on future-orientated decision making investigating state of the art current work in psychology on episodic future 

thinking and evaluating one’s decisions for the using a variety of artistic practises. There would also be the opportunity to compare different cultures e.g. UK versus China, given the interesting differences between We and I cultures (Psychology and Art). 

 

Constraints on Cognition 

Constraints on Cognition represent blind spots in our ways of seeing and road blocks in our ways of thinking. This area of research can be explored via the integration of Psychology, Art and Magic to explore why cognitive illusions work and what that reveals about the human mind. 

 

Thought patterns and predictions integrating evidences from Psychology, Artificial Intelligence and Art 

This illuminates questions raised by Artificial Intelligence. It could be realised in terms of a psychological exploration of thought patterns and predictions e.g. when asked to choose a card from a pack of playing cards, why do so many people converge on the same choices e.g. Queen of Hearts, Ace of Spades?