Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Published in COGNITIVE ETHOLOGY: THE MINDS OF OTHER ANIMALS: ESSAYS IN HONOR OF DONALD R. GRIFFIN, ed. Carolyn A. Ristau. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc., 1991. Pp. 273-289. Copyright 1991 Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Used by permission.


Cognitive ethology has been defined by Griffin (1978,1981, 1984) as the study of mental experiences in animals, restricting the domain of the field to phenomena thought to reveal intentionality, awareness, and conscious thinking. We argue that attempts to study these processes, while revealing impressive behavioral complexity, have proven unsuccessful in establishing the importance of mental experiences in determining animal behavior primarily because of the intractability of the problem. We suggest a different approach that draws upon the rich theory and sophisticated methodology of human and animal cognitive psychology while retaining an ecological and evolutionary perspective. Brief accounts of the conceptual underpinnings of cognitive psychology are presented as well as examples of empirical work, including the analysis of imagery in human and nonhuman animals. We hope our broad redefinition of cognitive ethology provides a rigorous framework within which to examine the role of cognition in ecologically relevant behavior.