Social Cognition

The Thoughtful Animal

Category archives for Social Cognition

Quandaries such as those involving stealing a drug to save a spouse’s life or whether or not to have an abortion have historically dominated the study of the development of moral thinking. The predominant research programs in psychology today use dilemmas in which one choice is deontologically correct (it is wrong to rotate a lever…

Dogs are pretty smart. They can have huge vocabularies, they can infer meaning in the growls of other dogs, and they can effortlessly figure out if other dogs want to play or fight with them. But their intelligence might be limited to the social domain; indeed, while they outperform chimpanzees in social tasks, chimpanzees outperform…

Figure 1: A mother hyena with her cubs. Early developmental experiences can have significant implications for the growth, behavior, survival, and reproductive success of an individual. In many species, one of the most important factors that affects an individual’s early development is the maternal environment. However, mothers not only provide an environment for their offspring,…

Silver Spoon Hyenas?

A fascinating new paper just came out in Nature Communications and I intend to blog it in the usual manner, but I thought I’d try something new first. Check it out: The Research Question …According to life history theory, mothers should invest in their offspring if this enhances offspring survival and fitness, and if the…

I will be reposting some dog-related posts from the archives in the coming few weeks as I prepare for the course I’m teaching this semester on dog cognition. Please let me know if you find something inaccurate or unclear. Domesticated dogs seem to have an uncanny ability to understand human communicative gestures (see here). If…

Social Cognition in Polar Bears

In most zoos and animal parks, polar bears (ursus maritimus) attract such a disproportionate amount of attention that they are referred to in the industry as “charismatic megafauna,” or in other words, “really cool animals.” Perhaps it is because it is especially rare for the average zoo-goer to happen upon a polar bear in the…

Hands Off My Bone!

Different dog growls mean different things, right? Probably. But can you tell the difference? Here’s a dog growling when someone is trying to steal its food: link to mp3. Here’s a dog growling at a stranger: link to mp3. You probably can’t tell the difference. Neither could I. Dogs can. Surprised? Probably not. But, this…

In general, the ability to attribute attention to others seems important: it allows an animal to notice the presence of other individuals (whether conspecifics, prey, or predators) as well as important locations or events by following the body orientation or eyegaze of others. We’ve spent a lot of time here at The Thoughtful Animal thinking…

From the archives… Figure 1: Does Mickey feel empathy? It probably depends on how you define empathy. Empathy, by any definition, implies emotional sensitivity to the affective state of another. Sometimes the empathy response is automatic or reflexive, like when babies start to cry upon hearing another baby crying. Sometimes a strong cognitive component is…

It’s been a pretty long stressful week around here, and not just because of Pepsipocalypse and the resulting fallout. But, well, I’m back, and I have an awesome paper to tell you about. When I saw it I just KNEW it had to be blogged. Mythbuster Adam Savage sets the yawning in motion in Mythbusters…