Learning Where (Not) To Cache: A Cognitive Model for Corvids


Computational modeling of cognition has provided many new insights into the human mind. In this paper, we use the same technique to advance our understanding of other, nonhuman minds: Those of corvids. This family of birds stores food under ground, saving it for later. This process of caching and recovery has been used to study many different aspects of corvid cognition, making it possible to build one integrated model that can be used to study many different cognitive phenomena. We start the construction of such a model by focusing on memory, and validate it by replicating three experiments by de Kort et al. Here, the caches of scrub jays are systematically stolen or moved, and the question is how this will affect their choice of cache sites. We use our model to reproduce the empirical data, and confirm its robustness by demonstrating that there are alternative outcomes that it could not have fit. In the process, we provide a new perspective on what exactly scrub jays may be learning and remembering.

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