Maria Santacà

Maria Santacà
University of Padova | UNIPD · Department of General Psychology

PhD in Psychological Sciences
Research Fellow, Department of Biology, University of Padova

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26
Publications
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163
Citations

Publications

Publications (26)
Article
Full-text available
With the exception of humans, early cognitive development has been thoroughly investigated only in precocial species, well developed at birth and with a broad behavioural and cognitive repertoire. We investigated another highly altricial species, the zebrafish, Danio rerio, whose embryonic development is very rapid (< 72 hours). The hatchlings’ ner...
Article
Animals travelling in their natural environment repeatedly encounter obstacles that they can either detour or go through. Gap negotiation requires an accurate estimation of the opening's size to avoid getting stuck or being injured. Research on visual illusions has revealed that in some circumstances, transformation rules used to generate a three-d...
Article
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Numerical discrimination is widespread in vertebrates, but this capacity varies enormously between the different species examined. The guppy (Poecilia reticulata), the only teleost examined following procedures that allow a comparison with the other vertebrates, outperforms amphibians, reptiles and many warm-blooded vertebrates, but it is unclear w...
Preprint
With the exception of humans, early cognitive development has been thoroughly investigated only in precocial species, well developed at birth and with a broad behavioural and cognitive repertoire. We investigated another highly altricial species, the zebrafish, Danio rerio, whose embryonic development is very rapid: 72 hours. The nervous system of...
Article
Vision and olfaction are expensive to maintain, and in many taxa there appears to be a trade-off in investment between the two sensory systems. Previous work has suggested that guppies, Poecilia reticulata, and zebrafish, Danio rerio, may differ in the relative importance they place on these two senses in social interactions. In this study, we dire...
Article
Zebrafish is an emerging model in the study of brain function; however, knowledge about its behaviour and cognition is incomplete. Previous studies suggest this species’ limited ability in visual learning tasks compared to other teleosts. In this study, we systematically examined zebrafish’s ability to learn to discriminate colour, shape, size, and...
Article
Full-text available
Although we live on the same planet, there are countless different ways of seeing the surroundings that reflect the different individual experiences and selective pressures. In recent decades , visual illusions have been used in behavioural research to compare the perception between different vertebrate species. The studies conducted so far have pr...
Article
Full-text available
The growing use of teleosts in comparative cognition and in neurobiological research has prompted many researchers to develop automated conditioning devices for fish. These techniques can make research less expensive and fully comparable with research on warm-blooded species, in which automated devices have been used for more than a century. Tested...
Article
Full-text available
Background The study of illusory phenomena is important to understanding the similarities and differences between mammals and birds’ perceptual systems. In recent years, the analysis has been enlarged to include cold-blooded vertebrates, such as fish. However, evidence collected in the literature have drawn a contradictory picture, with some fish s...
Article
Full-text available
Several studies have investigated the ontogeny of the capacity to discriminate between discrete numerical information in human and non-human animals. Contrarily, less attention has been devoted to the development of the capacity to discriminate continuous quantities. Recently, we set up a fast procedure for screening continuous quantity abilities i...
Article
An optimal foraging strategy often requires identifying and choosing the larger amount of food in the presence of multiple options, in order to maximize food intake. Food quantity estimation frequently depends on the perceptual ability to segregate food from the surrounding background. In human and nonhuman animals, it has recently been shown that...
Article
Full-text available
The horizontal-vertical (HV) illusion is characterized by a tendency to overestimate the length of vertically-arranged objects. Comparative research is primarily confined to primates, a range of species that, although arboreal, often explore their environment moving along the horizontal axis. Such behaviour may have led to the development of asymme...
Article
Visual illusions have been widely used to compare visual perception among birds and mammals to assess whether animals interpret and alter visual inputs like humans, or if they detect them with little or no variability. Here, we investigated whether a nonavian reptile (Pogona vitticeps) perceives the Müller-Lyer illusion, an illusion that causes a m...
Article
The horizontal-vertical illusion is a size illusion in which two same-sized objects appear to be different if presented on a horizontal or vertical plane, with the vertical one appearing longer. This illusion represents one of the main evidences of the anisotropy of the perceived space of humans, an asymmetrical perception of the object size presen...
Article
Full-text available
The study of visual illusions has captured the attention of comparative psychologists since the last century, given the unquestionable advantage of investigating complex perceptual mechanisms with relatively simple visual patterns. To date, the observation of animal behavior in the presence of visual illusions has been largely confined to mammal an...
Article
Visual illusions are powerful tools to understand similarities and differences in the perceptual mechanisms of human and nonhuman animals. Such investigation is particularly important in the presence of animal species whose brains largely differ from ours, because it can reveal whether perceptual laws described in humans are strictly related to the...
Article
Full-text available
In humans, aging and neurodegenerative diseases have been found to be associated with impairment in both mathematical abilities and estimation of continuous quantities such as size, weight or distance. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) is rapidly becoming a model for human aging and brain disorders but we currently lack any instrument for rapid assessment of...
Article
Visual illusions have been widely used as a tool to study animal visual perception. In many cases, identical experimental procedures were adopted to make highly controlled interspecific comparisons. However, reducing methodological variability may prevent reliable comparisons because a certain methodology could be more suitable for some species tha...
Article
Full-text available
The Müller-Lyer illusion is a well-known distortion illusion that occurs when the spatial arrangement of inducers (i.e. inwards- or outwards-pointing arrowheads) influences a line’s perceived relative length. To date, this illusion has been reported in several animal species but only in one teleost fish (i.e. redtail splitfins Xenotoca eiseni), alt...
Article
Animal species differ considerably in their ability to detour around a see-through obstacle to reach a goal positioned behind it. This variation is commonly assumed to derive from interspecific differences in the cognitive functions involved in the execution of the task, such as spatial abilities and inhibitory motor control. A teleost fish, the gu...
Article
Full-text available
Animals are often required to estimate object sizes during several fitness-related activities, such as choosing mates, foraging, and competing for resources. Some species are susceptible to size illusions, i.e. the misperception of the size of an object based on the surrounding context, but other species are not. This interspecific variation might...
Article
Behavioural responses to the environment often require the suppression of strong internal predispositions or the overriding of external lures, tasks performed by a cognitive function called inhibitory control. Inhibitory control of nonhuman animals is generally measured with the cylinder task: subjects are presented with food inside a transparent c...
Article
Optical illusions have been widely used to compare visual perception among vertebrates because they can reveal how the system is able to adapt to visual input. Sensitivity to visual illusions has never been studied in reptiles. Here, we investigated whether red-footed tortoises, Chelonoidis carbonaria, and bearded dragons, Pogona vitticeps, perceiv...
Article
Full-text available
Visual illusions are commonly used in animal cognition studies to compare visual perception among vertebrates. To date, researchers have focused their attention mainly on birds and mammals, especially apes and monkeys, but no study has investigated sensitivity to visual illusions in prosimians. Here we investigated whether lemurs (Lemur catta) perc...

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The study of visual illusions in non-human animals represents a useful tool to compare visual perception of human and non-human animals. Such investigations allow us to assess whether animals interpret and alter visual inputs or if they are more like machines, detecting visual inputs with little or no variability. Investigation of illusion susceptibility may also shed light on the impact of environmental and evolutionary pressures on visual perception.