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Behavioral Biology


Note: This course will be given once in two years. In 2014-2015 this course will not be given.

Admission requirements

BSc in biology or related disciplines.


Coordinator: dr. K. Riebel


The study of Animal cognition – or the ‘study of the mental lives of animals’ as phrased by Clive Wynne, the author of the concise introductory book we will use as point of departure for this seminar – is a very young but very fast growing discipline in the cognitive sciences. With the increased attention and improved experimental designs, previously overlooked and unexpected cognitive abilities of animals are discovered, some leading to spectacular headlines and claims in the media. The aims of this seminar are to provide students with sufficient knowledge on both to the information processing abilities of animals as well as experimental approaches in contemporary animal cognition research to enable them to critically evaluate primary, secondary and popular literature in animal cognition research. We will cover controversial issues of recent years, like whether animals can count, are able of mental time travelling (‘planning for the future’) or whether they have a theory of mind.

Learning goals

Learning Objectives:
On completion of this module, students:

  • should have knowledge and understanding of contemporary findings and theories concerning selected areas of animal cognition.

  • are aware of and understand key debates within the study of animal cognition.

Final Qualifications:
Knowledge and understanding of the course book and selected contemporary primary literature and critical evaluation thereof.


Note: This course will be given once in two years. In 2014-2015 this course will not be given.

Mode of instruction

For each meeting, participants will be asked to read and prepare one chapter from the book or review article so that they can actively participate during discussions. In addition, per session there will be two student presentations on selected primary literature pertaining to the theme of the week. Each participant is expected to prepare one oral presentation, and to act once as a chairperson during a presentation and ensuing discussion of another person.

Assessment method

Participants will be evaluated based on the quality of their presentation, their performance as a chairperson, and the quality and quantity of their contribution to discussion sessions and organizing the symposium.


Handouts, instructions and literature lists and all general course information will be made available via the digital learning environment Blackboard

Reading list

Animal Cognition –The mental live of animal. Clive D.L.Wynne (eds). Palgrave Macmilliam 2001. Paperback ISBN-13:978-0-333-92396-2 and primary literature (to be announced on Blackboard)


This course is designed for a maximum of 20 participants. Please register via UsiS. Upon over-registration biology master students will be given priority. Participation in the pre-meeting is obligatory. Failure to appear and commit to a date for a presentation during the pre-meeting will vacate the participant’s place for students from the waiting list.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for more information on how to apply.