Psychology 4224F-001

Animal Cognition

If there is a discrepancy between the outline posted below and the outline posted on the OWL course website, the latter shall prevail.


This course examines cognition in animals, from basic mechanisms of learning and memory to specialized processes of timing, spatial orientation, numerical ability, tool use, and metacognition. The role of cognition in the lives of animals in the wild is examined along with the organization and neural basis of animal cognition.

Antirequisites: Psychology 4290F/G, if taken in 2013/14, 2014/15 or 2015/16

Antirequisites are courses that overlap sufficiently in content that only one can be taken for credit. So if you take a course that is an antirequisite to a course previously taken, you will lose credit for the earlier course, regardless of the grade achieved in the most recent course.

Prerequisites: Psychology 2220A/B, 2221A/B or Neuroscience 2000, and registration in third or fourth year Honours Specialization in Psychology, Honours Specialization in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Honours Specialization in Neuroscience, or Honours Specialization in Animal Behaviour.

Other Psychology students and Psychology Special Students who receive 70% in the prerequisite course may enrol in this course.

3 seminar hours, 0.5 course


Unless you have either the prerequisites for this course or written special permission from your Dean to enroll in it, you may be removed from this course and it will be deleted from your record. This decision may not be appealed. You will receive no adjustment to your fees in the event that you are dropped from a course for failing to have the necessary prerequisites.


Instructor:                              David Sherry

Office and Phone Number:        Advanced Facility for Avian Research, Room 201                

Office Hours:                            By appointment     



Teaching Assistant:                  

Office:                                     Advanced Facility for Avian Research

Office Hours:                            By appointment     



       Time and Location of Classes:  Thursdays 9:30 – 12:30 PM

                                                     Physics & Astronomy Building 36

If you or someone you know is experiencing distress, there are several resources here at Western to assist you.  Please visit: for more information on these resources and on mental health.

Please contact the course instructor if you require material in an alternate format or if you require any other arrangements to make this course more accessible to you. You may also wish to contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) at 519-661-2111 ext 82147 for any specific question regarding an accommodation.


Shettleworth, S.J. (2012). Fundamentals of Comparative Cognition. Oxford University Press: Oxford.


This course surveys current research in animal cognition, emphasizing the central role of cognition in the lives of animals in nature.  Most behaviour has a substantial cognitive component, including foraging, migration, mate choice, parental care, and communication.  Cognitive abilities such as memory, spatial orientation, numerical ability, and timing make essential contributions to survival and reproduction in nature. This course will address a broad range of questions about animal cognition, including the relation between simple rules of learning and complex cognition, evolutionary specialization of learning, and the relation between cognition in animals and humans.



Learning Outcome

Learning Activities



Knowledge and Understanding

Describe and explain key concepts and research findings in animal cognition. 


Distinguish among evolutionary, functional, causal, and developmental questions about behaviour.


Differentiate among ecological, behavioural, and neural levels of analysis of behaviour.



Participating in class discussion


Preparing for a class presentation


Writing though papers


Writing final essay

Thought papers


Class presentation


Class participation


Final Essay

Critical Thinking

Use Web of Science to locate current relevant research findings.


Organize and synthesize research results.


Critically evaluate concepts and theories.


Formulate testable hypotheses about animal cognition.

Preparing for class presentation


Writing final essay

Thought papers


Class presentation


Class participation


Final Essay








Communicate ideas and research-based evidence orally and in writing in a professional manner.


Participating in class discussion


Leading class discussion


Delivering class presentation   


Writing thought papers


Writing final essay

Thought papers 


Class presentation


Class participation


Final essay




Students are expected to attend all classes and to read all assigned material.  Each student will select one of the weekly topics for which they will prepare and lead class discussion of assigned materials and additional background material.  Students will usually lead class discussion in groups of two or more. An essay on the topic of the presentation will be submitted no more than 2 weeks after the presentation.  Each student will also select four topics on which they will prepare short thought papers.  Evaluation will be based on the presentation, essay, thought papers, and class participation.


You will be provided with feedback on at least 15% of your final grade on or before November 9.


       Participation in Discussion                            10%    5% up to Nov 2; 5% from Nov 9 to Dec 7

       Thought Papers                                            20%    4 at 5% each; at least 2 by Nov 2

       Class Presentation                                        35%   

       Essay                                                          35%    Due 2 weeks following presentation


Leading Class Discussion. Students are expected to introduce and discuss the assigned material, raise questions about ideas and research findings, and describe any additional research results or topics they have examined.  Each class discussion will be led by a group of students, and each student will participate in leading one class discussion. Students may wish to use PowerPoint especially to show figures, illustrations, graphs and tables.


The Essay is a written description and discussion of the topic presented in class. The essay can also have a broader coverage and can include material not presented in class.  Maximum length is 10 double spaced pages, about 2500 words.  Style should follow the American Psychological Association (APA) Publication Manual.   Essays are due two weeks following the class presentation. 


Thought Papers are short (500 word maximum) reports on an assigned reading or readings for class, selected by the student.  Each student will submit 4 thought papers. Thought papers on an assigned reading are due the day that reading is discussed in class.  Thought papers are intended to be brief discussions of assigned articles and can include critiques, commentary, questions, comparisons to other research results, proposals for further research, relevant ideas discussed in other courses, or similar material.  You must submit at least 2 Thought Papers by November 2.


Class Participation is marked on the basis of participation in discussion. Participation in class can consist of asking or answering questions about the assigned readings and class topic, contributing additional information from other courses or your own reading, or similar involvement in classroom discussion.  You will receive a grade for half of your participation mark up to November 2 and a grade for the remaining half of the participation at the end of the course.


NOTE:  Because this is an essay course, as per Senate Regulations (, you must pass the essay component to pass the course. That is, the average mark for your written assignments must be at least 50%.

Although the Psychology Department does not require instructors to adjust their course grades to conform to specific targets, the expectation is that course marks will be distributed around the following averages:

70%     1000-level and 2000-level courses
72%     2190-2990 level courses
75%     3000-level courses
80%     4000-level courses
The Psychology Department follows the University of Western Ontario grading guidelines, which are as follows (see ):

A+  90-100      One could scarcely expect better from a student at this level
A    80-89        Superior work that is clearly above average
B    70-79        Good work, meeting all requirements, and eminently satisfactory
C    60-69        Competent work, meeting requirements
D    50-59        Fair work, minimally acceptable
F    below 50    Fail


There are no tests or examinations in this course.  Evaluation is based on the components described above in Section 5.0



             7         Introduction


            14         Memory and Foraging


            21         Spatial Ability and Food Caching


            28         Spatial Ability and Migration



             5         Timing and Foraging


            12         Fall Reading Week 


            19         Social Cognition


            26         Individual Recognition



              2        Numerical Ability and Foraging


              9        Numerical Ability and Brood Parasitism


            16         Physical Cognition


            23         Communication


            30         Theory of Mind



             7         The Minds of Animals


Students are responsible for understanding the nature and avoiding the occurrence of plagiarism and other scholastic offenses. Plagiarism and cheating are considered very serious offenses because they undermine the integrity of research and education. Actions constituting a scholastic offense are described at the following link:

As of Sept. 1, 2009, the Department of Psychology will take the following steps to detect scholastic offenses. All multiple-choice tests and exams will be checked for similarities in the pattern of responses using reliable software, and records will be made of student seating locations in all tests and exams. All written assignments will be submitted to TurnItIn, a service designed to detect and deter plagiarism by comparing written material to over 5 billion pages of content located on the Internet or in TurnItIn’s databases. All papers submitted for such checking will be included as source documents in the reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of papers subsequently submitted to the system. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement, currently between Western and

Possible penalties for a scholastic offense include failure of the assignment, failure of the course, suspension from the University, and expulsion from the University.


Western’s policy on Accommodation for Medical Illness can be found at: 

Students must see the Academic Counsellor and submit all required documentation in order to be approved for certain accommodation:


Office of the Registrar web site:

Student Development Services web site:

Please see the Psychology Undergraduate web site for information on the following:

- Policy on Cheating and Academic Misconduct
- Procedures for Appealing Academic Evaluations
- Policy on Attendance
- Policy Regarding Makeup Exams and Extensions of Deadlines
- Policy for Assignments
- Short Absences
- Extended Absences
- Documentation
- Academic Concerns
- 2017 Calendar References

No electronic devices, including cell phones and smart watches, will be allowed during exams.