Laurie O'Neill

Laurie O'Neill

IMPRS Doctoral Student
Department Gahr
MPI for Ornithology Seewiesen

Main Focus

Humans have very good causal understanding and they make good inferences on what are the underlying causes of effects that they see. For example they can feel that a box is full because it is heavy, they can tell that a person is in another room because they can hear movement, or they know that a rock can break open a nut because it is hard. It is debated as to whether humans can do this because it is a very specific area of intelligence important for being an evolutionarily fit human or whether it is a property that is symptomatic of being generally intelligent.

I am studying causal cognition in parrots. Parrots come from a distant evolutionary lineage to humans but show evidence of high intelligence. Thus they are an ideal study group for understanding the relation between general intelligence and causal understanding. I will complete a number of tests of causal understanding on various species of parrots housed at the Loro Parque Fundacion in Tenerife. I will then also complete tests of learning speed and flexibility in these same species as a measure of general intelligence. Together, these tests should help elucidate the role of general intelligence on causal understanding.

Curriculum Vitae

  • 2009 - 2012: BSc in Psychology and Zoology, University of Bristol, UK
  • 2012 - 2013: MSc in Molecular Neuroscience, University of Bristol, UK
  • 2014: Internship studying New Caledonian Crows and Jackdaws, Avian Cognition Research Station, Germany
  • since 2015: PhD studying causal cognition in parrots, Comparative Cognition Research Station, Tenerife
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