Memory as the product of forethought
Dr. Nicola Clayton & Mr. Clive Wilkins, University of Cambridge
Monday, February 6 at 5:30 p.m., 118 Psychology
Mental time travel allows us to re-visit our memories and imagine future scenarios. Memories are not just about the past~ they are also prospective. Nor are they a fixed store of what actually happened; memories move and alter the spaces they inhabit like bodies. In this lecture we explore the complex relationships between memory and human experience, with reference to ‘The Moustachio Quartet’, a series of novels that can be read in any order. We integrate evidences from science, art and the performing arts to explore the subjective nature of memory and mental time travel, arguing that such capacity evolved primarily for prospection, as opposed to retrospection. We question the notion that mental time travel is a uniquely human construct, and argue that the most convincing evidence for the independent evolution of mental time travel comes from our distantly related avian cousins, the corvids so clever that they are often referred to as ‘Feathered Apes’. These birds cache food for the future and rely on long-lasting and highly accurate memories of what, where and when they stored their stashes of food to make decisions about where to cache for tomorrow.
Clayton, N. S. (2014). Ways of Thinking: From Crows to Children and Back Again. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 68, 209-241. [pdf]
Laland, K., Wilkins C. A. P. & Clayton, N. S. (2015). The Evolution of Dance. Current Biology 26, R5-9. [pdf]