A Project of the University of Pennsylvania and the John Templeton Foundation

Evidence for future cognition in animals

Published: November, 2012

Investigator(s): Other Investigator(s)

Researcher(s): Roberts, W. A.


Evidence concerning the possibility of mental time travel into the future by animals was reviewed. Both experimental laboratory studies and field observations were considered. Paradigms for the study of future anticipation and planning included inhibition of consumption of current food contingent on future receipt of either a larger quantity or more preferred food, choice between quantities of food contingent on future pilfering or replenishment of food, carrying foods to different locations contingent on future access to those locations, and selection of tools for use to obtain food in the future. Studies of non-human primates, rats, black-capped chickadees, scrub-jays, and tayras were considered. It was concluded that current evidence favors future cognition in animals, and some theoretical issues concerning this ability were discussed.

JTF grant funded: No