About Us

 Welcome to Spetch’s Comparative Spatial Cognition and Decision Making Lab

We investigate cognitive processes that are fundamentally important in the lives of many species, including humans. These include the ability to locate, remember, and navigate to important places, the ability to recognize objects and scenes, and the ability to make effective decisions. We investigate these and related processes in organisms ranging from invertebrates to humans.

Much of the research conducted in our lab concerns spatial cognition in pigeons and humans. We are investigating processes underlying pigeons’ ability to locate hidden goals, using tasks conducted on the laboratory floor or on color monitors equipped with touch-sensitive frames. We conduct similar experiments with humans using touch-screen computers or virtual environments. We are particularly interested in how pigeons and humans use landmarks and environmental geometry to orient (determine which direction is which) and to remember and find goal locations.

A second line of investigation concerns risky decision making.  We are investigating the role of reward context and reward signals in experience-based risky decisions by humans and pigeons. We are also exploring the implications of our risky choice results for understanding some forms of gambling behavior.

We also conduct several other lines of research in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Alberta, and at other universities. Examples of recent or current collaborative projects with my lab members and colleagues include:

  • navigation in desert ants
  • hiding and searching strategies of adult humans in real and virtual environments,
  • midsession reversal in pigeons
  • motion perception  in pigeons and humans,
  • integration of spatial cues for goal localization