I teach Psych. 335 Introduction to Animal Behavior each fall. You can download the current (2011) syllabus here.
This course is an introduction to the evolutionary study of Animal Behavior. This class will provide an opportunity for students to learn about behavior from a biological perspective. We will start by reviewing evolution and natural selection. The remainder of the course looks at why animals behave the way they do in nature, focusing on causes of behavior. We will address immediate (or “proximate”) causes of behavior including genetic, neural, and hormonal influences on behavior. However, the main emphasis of the course will be on “ultimate” (or long-term) causes of behavior. Thus, we will look at behavior primarily in relation to an animal’s fitness or success. Topics covered will include foraging, habitat selection, mating systems, sexual selection, communication, and cognition. Emphasis will also be on learning how scientists study behavioral questions, including how to test adaptive hypotheses.
I teach Psych. 530/808 Comparative Animal Cognition most years, either in the fall or winter semester. I am currently teaching it in the Fall of 2011. You can download the syallabus here.
This seminar focuses on the cognitive abilities of animals from an evolutionary perspective, addressing questions such as: Are some animals “smarter” than others, and if so, why? How and why do cognitive abilities evolve? What sorts of cognitive abilities are favored by different ecological and social tasks? Are the cognitive abilities of animals specific to certain tasks or does it make sense to talk about generalized mental abilities like intelligence?
The course will begin with a brief review of evolutionary concepts and evolutionary comparative methods and then move on to specific topics relating to animal cognition. Topics covered will include: spatial cognition, numeric cognition, foraging, learning, memory, sexual selection and cognition, ecological and social complexity hypotheses, comparative studies of brain size, communication and language, eavesdropping, intentions and theory of mind, deception, and behavioral flexibility.
This is a rapidly growing field and the readings will emphasize current research from the primary literature.