Original article:

Animals represent the past and the future

Evolutionary Psychology 11(3): 573-590 Thomas R. Zentall, Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA., zentall@uky.edu


It has been proposed by some that only humans have the ability to mentally travel back in time (i.e., have episodic memory) and forward in time (i.e., have the ability to simulate the future). However, there is evidence from a variety of nonhuman animals (e.g., primates, dolphins, scrub jays, rats, and pigeons) that they have some ability to recover personal memories of what-where-when an event occurred (an earlier requirement of the ability to recover an episodic memory) and answer unexpected questions (another requirement to distinguish between semantic and episodic memory). Also, perhaps more critically, according to Tulving’s more recent definition of mental time-travel, several animals (primates and scrub jays) have been shown to be able to pass the spoon test. That is, they are able to plan for the future. Thus, although humans show an advanced ability to mentally travel backward and forward in time, there is growing evidence that nonhuman animals have some of this capacity as well.


Episodic memory, autonoetic memory, future planning, what-where-when, unanswered question

Full article

Download PDF (free)

Evolutionary Psychology - An open access peer-reviewed journal - ISSN 1474-7049 © Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young; individual articles © the author(s)

You're in!