Comparative Psychology

Mixing Memory

Category archives for Comparative Psychology

Darwin’s Mistake

Got your attention, right? That’s the title of a paper by Penn, Holyoak, and Povinelli in April’s Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Well, the full title is “Darwin’s mistake: Explaining the discontinuity between human and nonhuman minds.” Here’s the abstract: Over the last quarter century, the dominant tendency in comparative cognitive psychology has been to emphasize…

My Favorite Experiments: Bransford and Johnson

I’ve been busy as hell, so I haven’t had much time or energy to post anything lately. But I had an idea today that I thought I’d try out. There are a bunch of experiments that I really like for various reasons, and because I really like them and have described them so many times,…

Crows are smart. Really smart. But just how smart are they? Studying non-human primates, particularly gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees, researchers have shown that they’re capable of what’s called meta-tool use, or using one tool with another tool (I’ve mostly seen it defined as using one tool to modify or improve another tool, but more on…

Over the last couple decades there’s been a pretty heated debate about which, if any, nonhuman animals possess a “theory of mind,” that is, the ability to think about what others are thinking. Much of the research bearing on this debate has used false belief tasks. There are many variants, but the standard false belief…

Framing Project: A Long Overdue Update

I’m sure you’ve all long forgotten about the framing project that I discussed on this blog late last year, but in case someone out there remembers it, I wanted to give you an update. I still want to collect the category norms that I discussed. That is, I want to have people list features of…

Chimps With Spears

In a comment to the last post, “Korax” mentions a paper published online in Current Biology this week on chimpanzee tool use. The tool use described in this paper is, as far as I can tell, as or more complex than any previously witnessed in chimps. Here’s the abstract: Although tool use is known to…

Chimpanzee Culture for 4000 Years

You’ve probably already come across this story, but just in case: Oldest chimp tools found in West Africa Apes could have passed down skills for thousands of years. In the West African rainforest, archaeologists have found ancient chimpanzee stone tools thousands of years older than the previous oldest finds in the same area. The discovery…

By now you’ve probably all heard about the paper published by Plotnik, de Waal, and Reiss in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in late October titled “Self-recognition in an Asian elephant.” I suspect that for people who study elephants, the results described in that paper come as no surprise. Researchers have been…

This Just In: Monkeys Not Mozart Fans

Over the years I’d heard that, lurking in the basements of psychology departments at various universities throughout the world, there are psychologists studying music cognition, but until the publication of a special issue of the journal Cognition, I hadn’t really paid any attention to them. That issue (especially Ray Jackendoff’s “The capacity for music: What…