Module Catalogue 2016/17

PSY2006 : Animal Cognition

  • Offered for Year: 2016/17
  • Module Leader(s): Prof. Melissa Bateson
  • Lecturer: Prof. Christopher Petkov
  • Owning School: Psychology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



The aim of this module is to explore the evidence for the existence in non-human animals of higher cognitive abilities previously thought to be uniquely human.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module will comprise lectures and seminars on the following topics:

•       The comparative approaches to cognition
•       Associative learning and Lloyd Morgan’s Canon
•       Concept formation
•       Language and communication
•       Episodic memory, future planning and mental time travel
Reasoning, problem solving and tool use/manufacture
Social learning and culture
•       Social intelligence and theory of mind
Emotions and moods
•       Metacognition and consciousness

•       Reading and interpreting the primary literature in animal cognition
•       Writing good essays in animal cognition

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

•       Define key concepts used in animal cognition including: cognition, cognitive module, representation, metacognition, Pavlovian conditioning, instrumental/operant conditioning, Lloyd Morgan’s canon, concept, episodic memory, social learning, theory of mind, emotion and mood, consciousness.

•       Articulate the different kinds of questions one can ask about a given behaviour pattern (Tinbergen’s four questions).

•       Articulate the different levels at which cognitive processes can be studied (Marr’s levels).

•       Explain the possible adaptive value (i.e. function) of different cognitive traits.

•       Describe key experiments designed to demonstrate higher cognitive abilities in non-human animals including: concept formation, episodic memory, future planning, tool selection and manufacture, social learning, theory of mind, emotion, meta-memory, referential communication, use of syntax.

•       Evaluate key experiments in animal cognition and demonstrate an understanding that a given behavioural observation can potentially arise from different underlying cognitive mechanisms.

•       Illustrate, using examples, the application of Lloyd Morgan’s Canon.

Intended Skill Outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:
•       Read and interpret simple primary research literature in animal cognition
•       Write a well-structured essay

Graduate Skills Framework

Graduate Skills Framework Applicable: Yes
  • Cognitive/Intellectual Skills
    • Critical Thinking : Assessed
    • Data Synthesis : Assessed
    • Active Learning : Present
    • Information Literacy
      • Source Materials : Present
      • Use Of Computer Applications : Present
  • Self Management
    • Planning and Organisation
      • Decision Making : Present
    • Personal Enterprise
      • Initiative : Assessed
      • Problem Solving : Present
  • Interaction
    • Communication
      • Oral : Present
      • Interpersonal : Present
      • Written Other : Assessed

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading61:006:00Reading in preparation for seminars
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading122:0024:00Assigned reading for lectures
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching61:006:00Seminars in half groups
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study521:0052:00Independent reading and revision
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
PSY3035Animal Cognition
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures are used to impart information in a concise manner, to highlight areas of importance and to direct further reading and independent study. Seminars are used to test students understanding using quizzes and worksheets, to discuss set reading and to enrich students understanding via watching video material. For a subset of the seminars (4) the class is divided into two groups taught in alternate weeks, in order to achieve a smaller class size and facilitate discussions. These smaller seminars focus around the in-depth analysis of papers that the students have previously read and have come prepared to discuss. Set background reading and independent study allow students to pursue certain topics in greater depth. Optional writing exercises set as homework (not assessed) are used to allow students to practice writing about the topics covered in the module.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
PC Examination902A100Unseen, essay 50% & multiple choice 50%
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The examination comprises a combination of multiple-choice questions (all compulsory) and an essay (from a choice of titles). The multiple-choice questions test breadth of knowledge and problem solving. The exam essay tests ability to integrate material from across the course and written communication under time pressure. The essay additionally gives students the opportunity to display evidence of information learnt during independent study.

The format of resits will be determined by the board of Examiners


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2016/17 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2017/18 entry will be published here in early-April 2017. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.