History and Philosophy Of Science | Theoretical Issues in Animal Cognition
X755 | 7179 | Colin Allen

X755, Q700: Theoretical Issues in Animal Cognition Spring 2004
Instructor: Colin Allen
W 4-6:30

The study of animal cognition is a highly interdisciplinary subject
to which psychologists, behavioral biologists, anthropologists, and
philosophers have all made contributions.  Practitioners from these
different fields bring varying presuppositions about the relative
power of observation vs. experiment, laboratory vs. field work,
verbal vs. non-verbal protocols, evolutionary vs. computational
frameworks, and neurological vs. intentional approaches.  The goal
of this course is to examine current research in animal cognition
along these dimensions with a view to understanding the relationship
of animal cognition to cognitive science in general.

There is a large degree of overlap between the theoretical and
methodological issues raised by animal cognition, and those
confronted in the study of infant cognition.  Yet there are also
differences due to the incontrovertible fact that the cognitive
abilities of infants are definitely a stage in the process leading
to adult human cognition, whereas the relationship between animal
cognition and adult human cognition is far less direct.  Even those
whose research interests fall squarely in adult human cognition can
gain a novel perspective on the presuppositions underlying their
methods and theories by considering the extent to which those
methods and theories are applicable to nonhuman animals, and the
extent to which the explicitly evolutionary context within which
much animal cognition research takes place can or should be applied
to studies of human cognition.

We will survey representative research on topics such as animal
communication and deception, learning, memory and reasoning, tool
use, self-recognition and self-conception, metacognition and theory
of mind, pain and consciousness, altruism, morality, and animal
culture. This will be a true seminar with students responsible for
giving presentations of readings and leading discussions.  Students
will also be expected to carry out and present a research project
appropriate to their own disciplinary backgrounds.

Optional Text: Bekoff, M., Allen, C., and Burghardt, G.M. (2002) The
Cognitive Animal: Empirical and Theoretical Perspectives on Animal
Cognition.  MIT Press.  ISBN 0-262-52322-1