Alan Kamil

Emeritus Profile Image
Emeritus Biological Sciences

Research Interests

For many years, my research program focused upon learning and cognition in evolutionary context.  Most experiments were carried out in laboratory settings designed to simulate problems animals face in nature.  In one line of research we usedg operant conditioning techniques to investigate cryptic prey detection.  Recent papers in this program (Bond & Kamil, 1998, 2002, 2006) have demonstrated that apostatic effects of predation can produce balanced polymorphism and promote the appearance of new morphs, and background heterogeneity can also play a significant role.  In a second set of experiments, we investigated the remarkable spatial memory abilities of Clark's nutcrackers when recovering their cached pine seeds.   In a third line of work, Alan Bond and I haved looked at the possible evolution of learning in social species, comparing highly social pinyon jays with much less social scrub jays and nutcrackers.  We have published two important papers on this topic, (Bond et al, 2003; Paz-Y-Mino et al, 2004), and are currently finishing operant-based and naturalistic follow-up experiments.  Our research has integrated psychological and ecological approaches to behavior to develop a comprehensive picture of how the cognitive abilities of animals function adaptively in the context of the natural history of the animals with which we have worked.

Recent Publications

  • Goto, K., Bond, A.B., Burks, M., Kamil, A. C.  2014. Visual Search and Attention in Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata): Guidance by Associative Cuing and Repetition Priming. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition  In press.
  • Wei, C. W., Kamil, A. C., & Bond, A. B.  2013.  Direct and Relational Representation during Transitive List-Linking in Pinyon Jays (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus).  Journal of Comparative Psychology, doi: 10.1037/a0034627.
  • Kamil, A. C.  2013.  Eurasian jays predict the food preferences of their mates. Proceedings National Academy of Science. In Press.  [Commentary]
  • Lewis, J. L., Kamil, A. C. & Webbink, K.  2013.  Changing room cues reduces the effects of proactive interference in Clark’s nutcrackers (Nucifraga columbiana).  Journal Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes.   39: 187-192.
  • Gould, K. L., Gilbertsen, K. E., Hrvol, A. J., Nelson, J.  C., Seyfar, A. M., Brantner, R. M., & Kamil, A. C.  2013.  Differences in relative hippocampus volume and number of hippocampus neurons among five Corvid species.  Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 81:56-70. DOI:10.1159/000345560.
  • Gould, Ort, A. J., & Kamil, A. C.  2012.  Do Clark’s nutcrackers demonstrate what-where-when memory on a cache-recovery task?  Animal Cognition, 15:37-44.
  • Bond, A. B., Wei, C. A., & Kamil, A. C.  2010.  Cognitive Representation in Transitive Inference: A Comparison of Four Corvid Species.  Behavioural Processes, 85:283-292.
  • Gould, K. L., Kelly, D.M. & Kamil, A. C.  2010.  What scatter-hoarding animals have taught us about small-scale navigation.  Philos. Trans Royal Society, 365: 901-914.
  • Kelly, D.M., Kamil, A.C., & Cheng, K.  2010.  Landmark Use by Clark’s Nutcrackers (Nucifraga columbiana): Influence of Disorientation and Cue Rotation on Distance and Direction Estimates.  Animal Cognition, 13:175-188.
  • Gibson, B., Kamil, A. C.  2009. The synthetic approach to the study of spatial memory: Have we properly addressed Tinbergen's "four questions"?  Behavioral Processes, 80:278-287.
  • Kelly, D.M., Kippenbrock, S.,Templeton, J., & Kamil, A.C.  2008.  Use of a geometric rule or absolute vectors: Landmark use by Clark’s nutcrackers (Nucifraga columbiana). Brain Research Bulletin, 76:293-299.
  • Kamil, A. C., & Gould, K. L.  2008.  Spatial Memory in Food-Caching Animals.  In J. Byrne et al (Eds), Learning and Memory: A Comprehensive Reference, Elsevier.
  • Bond, A. B., Kamil, A. C., & Balda, R. P.  2007.  Serial reversal learning and the evolution of behavioral flexibility in three species of North American corvids (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus, Nucifraga columbiana, Aphelocoma californica).  Journal Comparative Psychology.  121:372-379.
  • Gibson, B. M., Wasserman, E. A. & Kamil, A. C.  2007.  Pigeons and people select efficient routes when solving a one-way traveling salesman task.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes.  33:244-261.
  • Balda, R. P., & Kamil, A. C.  2006.  Linking life zones, life history traits, ecology and spatial cognition on four allopatric Southwestern seed caching corvids.  In M. F. Brown & R. G. Cook (Eds.)  Animal Spatial Cognition:  Comparative, Neural and Computational Approaches.  Comparative Cognition Press.
  • Lewis, J. L., & Kamil, A. C.  2006.  Interference effects in the memory for serially presented locations in Clark's nutcrackers, Nucifraga columbianaJournal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes.  32: 407-418.
  • Stafford, B. L., Balda, R. P., & Kamil, A. C. 2006.  Does Seed‑caching Experience Affect Spatial Memory Performance by Pinyon Jays?  Ethology 112:1202-1208.
  • Kamil, A. C., & Bond, A. B.  2006.  Selective Attention, Priming and Foraging Behavior.  In E. A. Wasserman & T. R. Zentall (Eds.)  Comparative Cognition: A Natural Science Approach to the Study of Animal Intelligence.  Oxford University Press.
  • Bond, A. B., & Kamil, A. C.  2006.  Spatial Heterogeneity, Predator Cognition, and the Evolution of Color Polymorphism in Virtual Prey. Proceedings National Academy of Science.103:3214-19.
  • Gibson, B. M., & Kamil, A. C.  2005.  The fine-grained spatial abilities of three seed-caching corvids.  Learning and Behavior.  33:59-66.
  • Paz‑y‑Miño, G, Bond, A. B., Kamil, A. C., & Balda, R. P.  2004.  Pinyon jays use transitive inference to predict social dominance.  Nature.  430:778-782.
  • Goodyear, A.  J., & Kamil, A.  C.  2004.  Clark’s nutcrackers (Nucifraga columbiana) and the effects of goal‑landmark distance on overshadowing. Journal of Comparative Psychology. 118:258-264.
  • Kamil, A. C.  2004.  Sociality and the Evolution of Intelligence.  Trends in Cognitive Science. 8:195-197.
  • Spetch, M., Rust, T., Kamil, A. C. & Jones, J. E.  2003.  Searching by Rules: Pigeons landmark-based search according to constant bearing or constant distance. Journal of Comparative Psychology. 117: 123-132.
  • Bond, A. B., Kamil, A. C., & Balda, R. P. 2003.  Social complexity and transitive inference in corvids.  Animal Behaviour. 65: 479-487.
  • Jones, J. E., Antoniadis, E., Shettleworth, S. J. & Kamil, A. C.  2002.  A comparative study of geometric rule learning by nutcrackers, pigeons and jackdaws.  Journal of Comparative Psychology.  116:350-356.
  • Bond, A. B., & Kamil, A. C.  2002. Visual Predators Select for Crypticity and Polymorphism in Virtual Prey.  Nature.  415:609-614.
  • Kamil, A. C., & Bond, A. B.  2002.  Cognition as Independent Variable: Virtual Ecology.  In M. Bekoff, C. Allen, G. Burkhart (Eds.), The Cognitive Animal (pp.143-150), MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.
  • Balda, R. P., & Kamil, A. C.  2002.  Spatial and Social Cognition in Corvids: An Evolutionary Approach.  In M. Bekoff, C. Allen, G. Burkhart (Eds.), The Cognitive Animal (pp. 129-134), MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.
  • Kamil, A.C., Goodyear, A. J., & Cheng, K.  2001.  The use of landmarks by Clark’s nutcrackers: First tests of a new model.  Journal of Navigation.  54: 429-435.
  • Gibson, B. M., Kamil, A. C. 2001.  Tests for cognitive mapping in Clark’s nutcrackers (Nucifraga columbiana).  Journal of Comparative Psychology. 115: 403-417.
  • Gibson, B. M., Kamil, A. C. 2001. Search for a hidden goal by Clark’s Nutcrackers (Nucifraga columbiana) is more accurate inside than outside a landmark array. Animal Learning & Behavior.  29: 234-249.
  • Jones, J. E., & Kamil, A. C.  2001.  The use of relative and absolute bearings by Clark's nutcrackers, Nucifraga columbiana.  Animal Learning & Behavior. 29: 120-132.
  • Kamil, A. C., & Bond, A. B.  2001.  The evolution of virtual ecology.  In L. A. Dugatkin, (Ed.), Model Systems in Behavioral Ecology, Princeton Univ. Press.
  • Dukas, R., & Kamil, A. C.  2001.  Limited attention: The constraint underlying search image. Behavioral Ecology. 12: 192-199.
  • Kamil, A. C., & Cheng, K.  2001.  Way-finding and landmarks: the multiple-bearings hypothesis. Journal of Experimental Biology.  204: 103-113.
  • Kamil, A. C.  2001.  Evolution and Cognition [Book Review]. Evolution and Human Behavior. 22:: 439-442.
  • Kamil, A. C. & Jones, J. E.  2000.  Geometric rule learning by Clark's  nutcrackers (Nucifraga columbiana).  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal BehaviorProcesses. 26: 439-453.
  • Dukas, R., & Kamil, A. C.  2000.  The cost of limited attention in blue jays.  Behavioral Ecology. 11: 502-506.

Behavioral ecology of learning and memory

  • Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • M.S. University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • B.A. Hofstra University