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Bird Brains and Monkey Business
Can a parrot learn in a social setting? Do apes have culture or moral agency? Is it true that sheep don’t forget a face? Although human cognitive processes are in many ways unique and remarkable, nonhuman animals are capable of complex mental behaviors. Some animals engage in rudimentary numerical cognition, can discriminate between categories, and may even share the capacity to mentally re-experience the past and to anticipate and plan for the future.
In this course, you will explore the richness of mental lives in nonhuman animals through an analysis of theoretical frameworks and research methods, assess how we know what we know about animal minds, and better understand which abilities we share with other animals and what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. A fundamental question asked throughout this course is whether human cognitive behaviors are qualitatively different from those observed in animals or whether there is continuity between the mental behavior of other species and humans. You will read peer-reviewed research and learn about current theories of animal cognition, work on oral and writing skills, and take a trip to the zoo to observe the concepts learned in class directly!