Learning & Adaptive Behavior Laboratory

Department of Psychology


PSY 330. Comparative Cognition

wolvesThis course is an overview of current research and theory in comparative cognition—the scientific study of cognitive functioning from an evolutionary perspective. The field of comparative cognition is a broad and rapidly growing interdisciplinary field, residing at the interface of experimental psychology, behavioral neuroscience, behavioral ecology, and other biologically based approaches to understanding behavior. The main goal of the course is get students to think critically about complex behavior from a comparative perspective. We will read and discuss the primary literature in the field, emphasizing experimental issues and comparative methods. A primary focus will be on evaluating and interpreting data from an expanding body of literature on a range of topics, including decision making, memory, causal reasoning, conceptual and relational learning, problem solving, self-awareness, symbolic relations, and language, among others.

PSY 373. Learning

chimpHow do people and other animals learn from experiences with the world? How broadly do principles of learning apply across different situations and species? How does learning interact with the innate repertoire inherited from evolution? What is the relationship between learning and the brain? How does learning relate to “higher” cognitive functions (e.g., memory, attention, language)? How are learning principles discovered in the laboratory best exported to the “real world?”

These are some of the questions we will explore in this class. We will read and discuss primary research literatures, emphasizing experimental and conceptual issues. We will also conduct experiments designed to illustrate key concepts, methods, and analytic techniques in the field. Students will gain a better understanding of fundamental behavioral processes and how they are conceptualized, studied, and applied.

PSY 392. History and Systems of Psychology

headIn this course we explore the origins and growth of psychology as a discipline, from its roots in philosophy to its emergence as a science. Through an examination of primary and secondary sources, we examine major intellectual figures, events, and debates that have shaped the field, and analyze prominent schools of thought, with special emphasis on conceptual systems that continue to thrive on the contemporary scene. We also consider psychology's history in relation to broader trends in the history and philosophy of science.

PSY 415. Learning & Comparative Research Methods

gullsThe main objective of the course is to familiarize students with some of the latest research methods in the field of learning and comparative psychology. We will read and critically discuss the primary scientific literature and will work collaboratively on a series of interrelated experiments. The course presupposes a general background in human and animal learning and cognition. But unlike the more general focus of prior coursework, this course aims for depth—providing a more concentrated emphasis on a smaller set of issues designed to illustrate key experimental and quantitative methods used by researchers in experimental and comparative psychology. The depth also comes from a consideration of multiple perspectives—complementary models on different levels of analysis. Students will develop a good working understanding of contemporary research methods, and how learning-based and comparative approaches can profitably be combined in yielding a more comprehensive account of adaptive behavior than either approach alone.