PSY2006 : Comparative Cognition

  • Module Leader(s): Prof. Melissa Bateson
  • Owning School: Psychology
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


The aim of this module is to discover what makes the human mind unique. During the module we will explore the characteristics of human cognitive processes, and discuss how and why they differ from those of other species.

Original Summary:
This is a Stage two course in cognitive psychology. The module begins with a discussion of what cognition is, and how we can study it in humans and other species. The concept of modularity will be introduced. We will then go on to compare the cognitive abilities of humans with those of other animals, with the aim of discovering what makes the human mind unique. Are we the only species to form episodic memories? Can non-human animals plan for the future, use tools or teach other individuals new skills? Are we the only species to communicate with language? How important is language in our cognitive processes? The module will attempt to provide answers to these and other questions, drawing heavily on the recent literature in human and comparative cognition.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module will comprise lectures and seminars including the following topics:
Introduction to the study of cognition
The comparative approach to cognition
Modularity of mind
Communication and language
Knowledge and episodic memory
Reasoning and problem solving
Numerical competence
Social intelligence and theory of mind
Social learning and teaching
Cultural differences in cognition
How language affects cognition
How emotions affect cognition
The uniqueness of human cognitive processes

Teaching Methods

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

The core knowledge will be imparted through the weekly lectures backed up by Powerpoint slides and handouts on Blackboard. Lectures are supplemented by seminars in which students are encouraged to solve problems, answer questions and practise short writing exercises. For a subset of the seminars (4) the class is divided into two groups taught in alternate weeks (hence the discrepancy between student hours and academic hours for seminars), in order to achieve a smaller class size and facilitate discussions. These smaller seminars focus around the in-depth analysis of an empirical paper that the students have previously read and have come prepared to discuss. Set background reading and private study allow students to pursue certain topics in greater depth. Short writing exercises set as homework (not assessed) are used to allow students to practise writing about the topics covered in the course. Quizzes are provided on Blackboard for students to assess their understanding of the topics covered in their own time and to practise for the MCQ component of the exam.

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 will comprise a combination of multiple-choice questions (all compulsory) and an essay (from a choice of titles). The multiple-choice questions will test breadth of knowledge. The exam essay will test ability to integrate material from across the course and written communication under time pressure. The essay will additionally give students the opportunity to display evidence of information acquired during private study.

Reading Lists


Disclaimer: The University will use all reasonable endeavours to deliver modules in accordance with the descriptions set out in this catalogue. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, however, the University reserves the right to introduce changes to the information given including the addition, withdrawal or restructuring of modules if it considers such action to be necessary.