Department of Philosophy

The Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology | Lund University


I am a cognitive zoologist. That means that I compare cognitive mechanisms between species in order to understand cognitive evolution. Hopefully, this type of research leads to a deeper understanding of cognition as a biological phenomenon.

I mainly work with great apes and corvid birds. I want to understand the cognition of the species themselves, but I also want to gain further understanding of human cognitive evolution. One of my prime interests is to understand how complex cognition evolves, and how it can evolve independently (like in hominids, cetaceans and corvids).

I am the scientific director of Lund University Primate Research Station Furuvik, and I also direct Lund University Corvid Cognition Station.

I mainly teach in comparative cognition and in fields related to it. I am the main supervisor two PhD-students in projects related to physical cognition and planning in great apes and corvids.


About the research

I am an associate professor in Cognitive Zoology. My main research concerns the evolution of cognition, and in particular independently evolved similar cognition which leads to an understanding of cognitive principles. I compare great apes and corvids which are similar in their complex cognition despite sharing a last common ancestor about 320 million years ago. I also study cognition in the deep evolutionary history of the bird lineage, including the extinct dinosaurs, by comparing crocodilians with the least derived birds, the palaeognaths. I similarly study the evolution of the mammals by comparing monotremes, marsupials and placentals. The two lineages are compared in order to get a better picture of the natural history of cognition that lead to the high levels we see today in some species of both lineages.


Books (1)
  • Osvath, M. (2010). Planning Primates - A search for episodic foresight. Lund University Cognitive Studies, 148. Dissertation.
Articles (21)
  • Osvath, M. (2016). Putting flexible animal prospection into context: escaping the theoretical box. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 7, 5-18. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Sauciuc, G.-A., Persson, T., Bååth, R., Bobrowicz, K. & Osvath, M. (2016). Affective forecasting in an orangutan : predicting the hedonic outcome of novel juice mixes. Animal Cognition, 19, 1081-1092. Springer.
  • Jacobs, I. & Osvath, M. (2015). The string-pulling paradigm in comparative psychology. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 129, 89-120. American Psychological Association (APA).
  • Jacobs, I., von Bayern, A., Martin-Ordas, G., Rat-Fischer, L. & Osvath, M. (2015). Corvids create novel causal interventions after all. Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences, 282. Royal Society.
  • Osvath, M. & Persson, T. (2015). What’s in a name? Commentary: A crisis in comparative psychology: Where have all the undergraduates gone. Frontiers in Psychology, 6. Frontiers.
  • Jacobs, I., Osvath, M., Osvath, H., Mioduszewska, B., von Bayern, A. M. P. & Kacelnik, A. (2014). Object caching in corvids: Incidence and significance. Behavioural Processes, 102, 25-32. Elsevier.
  • Osvath, M. & Martin-Ordas, G. (2014). The future of future-oriented cognition in non-humans : theory and the empirical case of the great apes. Royal Society of London. Philosophical Transactions B. Biological Sciences, 369. Royal Society.
  • Osvath, M. & Sima, M. (2014). Sub-adult Ravens Synchronize their Play : A Case of Emotional Contagion?. Animal behavior and cognition, 1, 197-205. Sciknow Publications Ltd..
  • Osvath, M., Kabadayi, C. & Jacobs, I. (2014). Independent evolution of similar complex cognitive skills : the importance of embodied degrees of freedom. Animal behavior and cognition, 1, 249-264. Sciknow Publications Ltd..
  • Osvath, M., Osvath, H. & Bååth, R. (2014). An Exploration of Play Behaviors in Raven Nestlings. Animal behavior and cognition, 1, 157-165. Sciknow Publications Ltd..
  • Osvath, M. & Persson, T. (2013). Great apes can defer exchange: a replication with different results suggesting future oriented behavior. Frontiers in Psychology, 4. Frontiers.
  • Osvath, M. & Karvonen, E. (2012). Spontaneous innovation for future deception in a male chimpanzee. PLoS ONE, 7. Public Library of Science.
  • Osvath, M., Persson, T. & Gärdenfors, P. (2012). Foresight, function representation, and social intelligence in great apes (Commentary on K. Vaesen “The cognitive basis of human tool use”). Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 35, 234-235. Cambridge University Press.
  • Osvath, M., Persson, T. & Gärdenfors, P. (2012). Foresight, function representation, and social intelligence in the great apes. The Behavioral and brain sciences, 35, 234. Cambridge University Press.
  • Osvath, M. (2010). Great ape foresight is looking great. Animal Cognition, 13, 777-781. Springer.
  • Osvath, M., Raby, C. R. & Clayton, N. S. (2010). What should be compared in comparative mental time travel?. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14, 51-52. Elsevier.
  • Osvath, M. (2009). Spontaneous planning for future stone throwing by a male chimpanzee. Current Biology, 19, 190-191. Elsevier.
  • Osvath, M. (2009). The role of sensations in the anticipating self. Constructivist foundations.
  • Osvath, M. & Osvath, H. (2008). Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and orangutan (Pongo abelii) forethought: self-control and pre-experience in the face of future tool use. Animal Cognition, 11, 661-674. Springer.
  • Osvath, M. & Gärdenfors, P. (2007). What are the evolutionary causes of mental time travel?. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 30, 329-329. Cambridge University Press.
  • Osvath, M. & Gärdenfors, P. (2005). Quand les hommes inventèrent l’avenir. Science Humaines, 58-63.
Book chapters (4)
Prefaces (1)
Conference contributions (17)
Reports (2)

Research portal (Lund University)

Mathias Osvath

Reader, Senior Lecturer
Cognitive Science
Department of Philosophy

Contact information

E-mail mathias.osvathlucs.luse

Visiting address Helgonavägen 3, Lund

Postal address Box 192, 221 00 Lund

Internal post code 30

Phone +46 46 222 32 99

Mobile +46 70 511 26 55