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Introduction to Animal Behavior

Author(s): Deanne Erdmann, MS

Cognition in Animals

Cognitive ethology is the comparative, evolutionary and ecological study of the mental experiences of animals, particularly in their natural environment, in the course of their daily lives. Cognitive ethologists use the term "mental experiences" because ethologist remain open to the idea that animals may have a conscious awareness of themselves and the world around them.

This would mean that animals have sensory experiences such as pleasure and pain, the use of mental imagery, and at least simple intentional states, such as wanting and trusting.

Cognitive ethologists use both field and laboratory experiments to study the mental experiences animals face as they find food and mates, rear their young, avoid predators, create shelters and communicate and engage in social interactions.