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Psychology 26
Animal Cognition Term Paper

Description  Deadlines  Help in writing term papers  Topic information

wdpckerfinch.JPG (28438 bytes)   You have the option to select the topic of your final paper. It should be focused on a specific topic or question in the general area of animal cognition. It should be about 2800 words in length (about 10 pages),  double spaced and typed.  Format and references should follow APA style.  Imagine that your peers are the main audience for this paper. Make it interesting and educational about a critical issue in animal cognition.

In addition, you will need to submit a PDF of the empirical article that you found most helpful in preparing your paper. Finally, you need to include in your paper references to a minimum of five (5) empirical research papers from the primary peer-reviewed literature related to your topic. The paper should use the tactics, ideas, and concepts we have developed in class to understand and evaluate the experimental and theoretical content of your selected topic. Questions that might be addressed include:

  • What are the different psychological mechanisms hypothesized to explain the observed behaviors?
  • What is evolutionary significance of the behavior and/or psychological processes involved?
  • Are there competing theoretical explanations in this area? What evidence is provided for each position?
  • What psychological changes take place in the animal as a function of training or different experimental conditions?
  • What is the effective stimulus controlling the animals' behavior? How is this determined?
  • How did the animal come to acquire the critical information guiding any particular behavior?
  • How does this animal behavior relate to human behavior and thinking?
  • You are neither limited to these questions nor required to address each one -- they are suggestions to focus your thinking and analysis. Other aspects of each topic can be examined and discussed in the paper. You should strive to go beyond a simple cataloging of experiments and their results (boring and which will eat up your 2800 words quickly). Instead concentrate on the key analytical questions, observations, arguments, and explanations that make your topic vital, important and interesting.  Neuropsychological issues are welcome, but should not be the primary focus of your paper.

    Important Deadlines

    April 4th: Hand in a preliminary title and  list of five primary journal-based references that you intend to use in your paper. If you want you can list a backup topic.

    April 16th : Hand in a two paragraph abstract of your paper. This should have a clear description of your  topic, the main thesis or issues you intend to discuss, and  what the reader will learn from it. Can be submitted electronically with the header "Psych 26 Abstract"

    April 29th: Due at 5:03 in Dr Cook's mailbox in the Psychology Building. Papers can be submitted by email  (Word documents and PDFs only) with the header "Psych 26 Final Paper" The copy of the empirical article that you found most helpful in preparing your paper can also be submitting electronically.

    Journals that will be essential to your research:

    Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes
    Learning & Behavior (formerly Animal Learning and Behavior)
    Journal of Comparative Psychology
    Animal Cognition
    Animal Behaviour
    Comparative Cognition and Behavior Reviews
    Behavioural Processes
    Learning & Motivation
    Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior
    Psychological Review

    Books that might be helpful to look at:.

    Wasserman E. A. & Zentall, T. R. (2006). Comparative cognition: Experimental explorations of animal intelligence. Oxford Press.
    Cook, R. G. (2001). Avian visual cognition. [On-line]. Available:
    Brown, M. F. & Cook, R. G. (2006). Animal spatial cognition. [On-line]. Available
    Shettleworth, S. (1998). Cognition, Evolution and Behavior. Oxford Press.
    Honig, W. K. & Fetterman, J. G. (1992). Cognitive aspects of stimulus control. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
    Roitblat, H, Bever, T, & Terrace, H. (1984) Animal cognition. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Links to help on writing and term papers

  • Tufts Academic and Writing Resources
  • Purdue University On-Line Writing Workshop
  • APA style resources
  • On Writing Research Papers
  • Revising and editing your draft
  • Links to references and search information