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Empirical evaluation of mental time travel

  • Caroline Raby (a1), Dean Alexis (a1), Anthony Dickinson (a1) and Nicola Clayton (a1)

Although the mental time travel (MTT) hypothesis provides a rich, conceptual framework, the absence of clear, empirically tractable, behavioural criteria for determining the capacity for MTT restricts its usefulness in comparative research. Examples of empirical criteria for evaluating MTT in animals are given. We also question the authors' evaluation of semantic foresight and their even-handedness in assessing human and nonhuman behaviour.

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Clayton N. S., Bussey T. J. & Dickinson A. (2003) Can animals recall the past and plan for the future? Nature Reviews Neuroscience 4:685–91.
Raby C. R., Alexis D. M., Dickinson A. & Clayton N. S. (2007) Planning for the future by western scrub-jays. Nature 445(7130):919–21.
Shettleworth S. J. (2007) Animal behaviour – Planning for breakfast. Nature 445(7130):825–26.
Suddendorf T. & Corballis M. C. (1997) Mental time travel and the evolution of the human mind. Genetic Social and General Psychology Monographs 123(2):133–67. Available at:
Tulving E. (1972) Episodic and semantic memory. In: Organization of memory, ed. Tulving E. & Donaldson W., pp. 382403. Academic Press.
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Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • ISSN: 0140-525X
  • EISSN: 1469-1825
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences
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