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Origins of Mind 101

If I had to describe the mission, the point, the raison d’etre of the entire field of psychology in just one sentence, I would say: Psychology aims to determine the relative extents to which biology and experience determine cognition and behavior.” And, as you might expect, there are widely differing schools of thought. Nativists emphasize…

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,…

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…

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…

Regular readers of this blog know that while I think studying animal cognition, behavior, and communication is (sometimes) fun and (always) interesting, the real importance – the why should I care about this – is because by understanding animals, we can attempt to learn more about ourselves. I’ve written about this before. Here are the…

Today for Monday Pets, we’re going to go old school and talk about vision. Vision is arguably our most (intentionally) utilized sensory system, so its pretty important to figure out how it works. And it’s what David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel set out to investigate starting in the late 1950s. Ultimately, their work would get…