It has been proposed by some that only humans have the ability to mentallytravel 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.

Document Type


Publication Date


Notes/Citation Information

Published in Evolutionary Psychology, v. 11, issue 3, p. 573-590.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page(http://www.uk.sagepub.com/aboutus/openaccess.htm).

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Funding Information

Preparation of this article was supported by Grant HD060996 from the National Institutes. Some of the research described in this article was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grant 63726 and by National Institute of Child Health and Development Grant 60996.