Vol 6, Issue 2, May 2019

Cognition in the Fast Lane: Ravens' Gazes are Half as Short as Humans' when Choosing Objects


Bobrowicz, K., & Osvath, M. (2019). Cognition in the fast lane: Ravens’ gazes are half as short as humans’ when choosing objects. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 6(2), 81–97. https://doi.org/10.26451/abc.


Time cannot be directly perceived; instead, its flow is inferred from the influx of sensory information. To prevent sensory overload, attentional mechanisms split up information into processable units. This portioning remains imperceptible to the individual. However, the length of these units still influences the speed of perception and the speed at which behaviors are performed. Previous studies have focused on establishing the length of these units in various mammalian species – mainly humans – by measuring different types of behaviors, including gaze. However, no such studies have been conducted on birds. We measured duration of ravens’ (Corvus corax) single gazes towards selectable objects before a choice was made, and compared it with that of humans in a similar set up. The raven gaze durations were approximately half those of humans (which fell slightly short of previously established ranges). We hypothesize that these differences are mainly due to the much higher so-called flicker-fusion-frequency in birds, which makes their vision faster in the sense that it picks up more information per time unit than mammalian vision does. We further discuss that the speed of perception might influence the general speed of cognitive processing in more complex tasks as well, and suggest that the addition of a temporal component in comparative cognitive studies might be informative.


Time constant, Raven, Moment, Temporal processing, Cognition, Visual perception