“What” and “Where” Analysis and Flexibility in Avian Visual Cognition

Shigeru Watanabe

in The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Cognition

Second edition

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780195392661
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 “What” and “Where” Analysis and Flexibility in Avian Visual Cognition

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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Visual cognition consists of two kinds of analytic processes, those concerned with the “what” and those involved with the “where” of incoming stimulation. In the primate brain, these two processes are analyzed by two parallel information flows: the ventral pathway, which analyzes object properties (i.e., the “what”), and the dorsal pathway, which analyzes localization and spatial properties (i.e., the “where”). This chapter first reviews findings related to both aspects of the neural system in birds and compares these to the primate brain system. Second, it examines the neural basis of flexibility of avian cognition. Cognitive flexibility is defined in terms of modifications of already acquired knowledge and the creation of new knowledge. The final section discusses the evolutionary origin of this intelligent behavior.

Keywords: visual cognition; birds; primate brain; avian cognition; cognitive flexibility

Article.  14083 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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