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A supposed mental image (of a sought-after object) that an animal may have while searching. The evidence for this is circumstantial. Field studies can reveal the extent to which foraging animals are being selective, and overlooking some perfectly edible items. Observations in the field seem to show that predatory birds concentrate on one type of prey within a given foraging period. In the laboratory, studies of domestic chicks (Gallus gallus domesticus) have shown that they demonstrate a definite improvement with experience in their ability to detect camouflaged grains of rice. Carrion crows (Corvus corone) have been shown to respond selectively to a particular type of prey, even when other equally likely types are available. The birds were trained to search among beach stones for pieces of meat that had been hidden under mussel shells painted various colours. The birds would concentrate on shells of one colour, ignoring others. If a bird turned over a shell of a particular colour and found no meat, then it would usually start searching for shells of another colour. Similar phenomena have been demonstrated in laboratory experiments on a number of species of fish, bird, and mammal. However, none of these studies show that the animals have a mental image as such, and the results can also be explained in terms of the much-studied topic of selective attention.

Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences.

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