Object Permanence in the Food-Storing Coal Tit (: Is the Mental Representation Required?Periparus ater: Is the Mental Representation Required?) and the Non-Storing Great Tit (: Is the Mental Representation Required?Parus major: Is the Mental Representation Required?): Is the Mental Representation Required?

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Abstract

Object permanence is a cognitive ability that enables animals to mentally represent the continuous existence of temporarily hidden objects. Generally, it develops gradually through six qualitative stages, the evolution of which may be connected with some specific ecological and behavioral factors. In birds, the advanced object permanence skills were reported in several storing species of the Corvidae family. In order to test the association between food-storing and achieved performance within the stages, we compared food-storing coal tits (Periparus ater) and nonstoring great tits (Parus major) using an adapted version of Uzgiris & Hunt’s Scale 1 tasks. The coal tits significantly outperformed the great tits in searching for completely hidden objects. Most of the great tits could not solve the task when the object disappeared completely. However, the upper limit for both species is likely to be Stage 4. The coal tits could solve problems with simply hidden objects, but they used alternative strategies rather than mental representation when searching for completely hidden objects, especially if choosing between two locations. Our results also suggest that neophobia did not affect the overall performance in the object permanence tasks.

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