lecture5 - BioNB 221 Lecture 5 Sept 8 2008 Lecture 5...

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Sept. 8, 2008 Page 1 Lecture 5: Cognition Janet Shellman Sherman Cognition is the study of mechanisms by which animals acquire, store, process, and act on information from the environment . Mechanisms of interest may be animal perception, learning and memory , orientation , decision-making , consciousness , and even self cognizance. This is a new field of endeavor in animal behavior, primarily because researchers tend to shy away from studies that focus on how animals, other than humans, think and feel. Tom Seeley, currently on sabbatical from Neurobiology and Behavior this year, has given great thought into animal cognition. Here are his definitions: ‘The thoughts and feelings, if any, an animal have about objects and events. ‘ and ‘The mental experiences of animals as they perceive, process, and act on information.’ Committing to the idea that animals use cognitive processes to solve problems means also considering whether animals have consciousness. And why not? There are two levels of consciousness to consider when exploring animal minds: -- Perceptual consciousness: being aware of objects and events, e.g. knowing that a predator is approaching -- Reflective consciousness: being aware of one’s own thoughts and feelings, e.g. thinking about one’s fear of the predator “…. under natural conditions, where mistakes are often fatal…The effectiveness of conscious thinking and guiding behavioral choices on the basis of emotional feelings about what is liked or disliked may well be so great that this “core function” [the part of the brain devoted to consciousness] is one of the most important activities of which central nervous systems are capable.” Donald Redfield Griffin Animal Minds: Beyond Cognition to Consciousness 1992. Chicago Univ. Press
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This note was uploaded on 08/28/2008 for the course BIO 2210 taught by Professor Seeley during the Fall '08 term at Cornell.

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lecture5 - BioNB 221 Lecture 5 Sept 8 2008 Lecture 5...

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