Contributed by Marielle Grenade-Willis
It’s autumn and that means squirrels are busy storing their nuts for the winter season. A memory technique known as “chunking” which basically means a process of storing new information in lumps rather than as individual variables has been found to be used by squirrels while hiding their nuts. Animal behaviorist, Mikel Delgado, who conducted the experiment says, “I wanted to know if squirrels would basically arrange their nuts in a way that might facilitate either recall of the location or recaching and redistribution of those nuts later, making it more convenient for them to remember where nuts were stored—because they stored nuts of a similar type or value in similar locations spatially.” What he found was that squirrels would actively store nuts of the same variety in places that were different from a nut of another species. In a sense, we could say that such behavior is a squirrel’s way of acting upon “material” control over one’s environment, a way to ensure bodily health, and an expression of practical reason as outlined by Martha Nussbaum’s Central Capabilities Approach.