Comparative Psychology

The Thoughtful Animal

Category archives for Comparative Psychology

A version of this post was originally published on my WordPress blog on March 15, 2010. Click the archives image to see the original post. Most animals, at some point in their day-to-day lives, face the same problem. After they’ve gone out in search of food, they need to find their way home. But some…

You’ve probably had a conversation that goes something like this: Person A: “My dog is sooooo amazing!” You: “I mean, dogs are awesome and all, but what’s so amazing about this particular dog?” Person A: “He just understands me. It’s like he knows what I’m thinking and what I need.” You: “Do you think he’s…

Human infants have one important job during the first years of life, and that is to learn about the world and their culture from their parents and other caregivers. But what is learning? I’ve previously written that Hungarian developmental psychologists Gergely and Csibra have defined learning as the acquisition of new, generalizable knowledge that can…

What is learning? Most psychologists (indeed, most people in general) would agree that learning is the acquisition of new knowledge, or new behaviors, or new skills. Hungarian psychologists Gergely and Csibra offer a deceptively simple description: “Learning involves acquiring new information and using it later when necessary.” What this means is that learning requires the…

You know that old phrase, “monkey see, monkey do”? Well, there might be something to it, except that chimpanzees aren’t monkeys. (Sadly, “ape see, ape do” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.) A new paper published today in PLoS ONE has found evidence that chimpanzees have contagious yawning – that is, they can…

I was reading Christie’s excellent post (and you should too) on GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons’ elephant killing incident (is it too early to be calling this #ElephantGate?) Although I don’t know quite enough about what is going on in Zimbabwe, I tend to err on the side of not intentionally killing elephants because – as…

A new piece by me today at the Scientific American Guest Blog, on some exciting news from the Jane Goodall Institute and Duke University: Fifty years ago, in the summer of 1960 – the same year that a US satellite snapped the first photo of the Earth from space, the same year that the CERN…

Welcome to Territoriality Week! Every day this week, I’ll have a post about some aspect of animal or human territoriality. How do animals mark and control their territories? What determines the size or shape of an animal’s territory? What can an animal’s territory tell us about neuroanatomy? Today, I begin by asking two questions: first,…

What’s the best way for a lonely guy to get a date? If you’re a Splendid Fairy-Wren (Malurus splendens, native to Australia), your best bet might be to frighten the object of your affection. You’ve learned all about the birds and the bees; now it’s time to learn from them. Lots of research has shown…

In honor of Science Online, which begins on Thursday night, I will be writing about lemurs this week. Why lemurs? Because on Friday morning, as a part of Science Online, I will be taking a tour of the Duke Lemur Center. It is common among animals – especially primates – to orient their gaze preferentially…