Research

Corvid cognition

Like many other corvids, Eurasian jays share food with each other. Unlike some more social species, food-sharing in Eurasian jays is seen only between mated pairs (predominantly by males) and is restricted to their breeding season. During my PhD, I initiated a research programme using this natural behaviour of the jays as a paradigm to assess their cognitive abilities.

I have been investigating how males decide what food to feed their female partner. In particular, we were interested whether the males’ sharing behaviour can take the female’s current desire into account.

IMG_8623

Eurasian jay male feeding his female partner

To investigate this possibility, my colleagues and I systematically manipulate what foods the female and the male want at a particular time and assess what cues the males are using to inform their decisions what to share with the female.

Watch a video of a test trial:

Read some of the press coverage for the original study on the jays’ food-sharing behaviour:

http://news.sciencemag.org/brain-behavior/2013/02/sensitive-males-provide-clues-mind-reading-birds

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/02/jay-theory-of-mind/

Watch Edward Legg present the study at the Science Slam 2013 in Cambridge:

Dog cognition

The aim of my studies is two-fold. Firstly, I am interested in the dogs’ cognitive abilities: how they perceive their physical surroundings and solve problems, as well as how they interact with conspecifics and heterospecifics (mostly humans). Specifically, I am testing whether dogs form different representations of social agents depending on whether they are interacting with another dog or a human. Secondly, I am interested in the dog-human relationship and communication, which involves the question how good humans are in understanding their dogs’ behaviours.

The research with dogs is conducted in several countries across Europe but is mainly based in Croatia. This work is in collaboration with the Croatian Rescue Dog Association (CRDA) and Vindor school for dog training, the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service Rijeka and the Slovenian Društva za reševalne pse Burja.

I am currently conducting a collaborative project with Mladenka Tkalčić from the Department of Psychology, Faculty for Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Rijeka on human-dog interactions. This project has kindly been sponsored by Burns Pet Nutrition Ltd.

Collaborators:

Lucy Cheke, Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, UK

Nicky Clayton, Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, UK

Anne Delastrade, Research Centre for Alpine Ecosystems, France

Sinead English, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, UK

Edward Legg, Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, UK

Corina Logan, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, UK

Duje Lisicic, Department of Biology,University of Zagreb, Croatia

Michael Mendl, School pf Veterinary Sciences, University of Bristol, UK

Hannah Rowland, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, UK

Rachael Shaw, School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University, New Zealand

Mladenka Tkalcic, Department of Psychology, University of Rijeka, Croatia

Claudia Wascher, Department of Animal and Environmental Biology, Anglia Ruskin University, UK