|Class times:||Lecture Tue/Thu 11:00AM - 12:15PM, Gilmer Hall 190|
|Review (optional) Tues 6:00PM - 6:50PM, Gilmer Hall 190|
|Final exam:||Tue May 5, 9:00AM - 12:00PM|
|Instructor:||Daniel Meliza (cdm8j)|
|Office Hours:||Gilmer 183, Wed 11:30-12:30, Thu 1:30-2:30, or by appointment via email|
|Last revised:||23 Apr 2015|
|Victoria Mauerfirstname.lastname@example.org||Gilmer 026||Mon 11:00AM - 1:00PM|
|Doyle Tateemail@example.com||Gilmer 244||Mon & Fri 8:30AM - 9:30AM|
Animals interact with their environments and each other in complex yet predictable ways. Their behaviors range from simple programs of locomotion to flexible systems of learning and communication. Questions about why humans and other animals have these behaviors (and not others) have fascinated us for thousands of years. This course will teach you how to ask these questions scientifically.
Behavior can be examined through many lenses, including function, phylogeny, ontogeny, and mechanism. We will consider all these approaches, but our primary focus is on mechanism, specifically on the cognitive processes that are necessary for behaviors and the neural circuits that implement those processes.
The study of animal behavior differs from many other kinds of psychology in that it is fundamentally comparative. We aim to identify aspects of behavior that are common to many species or shared among a few species, and we relate those similarities to phylogenetic relationships (homologies) and to mechanisms that arose from shared environmental pressures, physical constraints, or computational limitations (homoplasies). Thus, much of what you will learn in this course relates to the methods of inquiry used in this field. By the end of the course, you will be able to answer the following questions about specific behaviors in a range of taxa:
And more generally:
The required text for the course is Animal Learning and Cognition: An Introduction, 3rd ed, by John Pearce (Psychology Press), ISBN 978-1-84169-656-0.
You will also be assigned readings from other books and from the primary literature. These resources will be placed on the calendar with links that you can access from on grounds or by using the VPN or web proxy as described here, or will be uploaded to the Resources section of the Collab site.
Exams (85%) There will be three exams during the semester (see schedule below) and a final exam. You are required to take three of these. You may take all four and your lowest score will be dropped. The three remaining exams will contribute equally to the final grade. New policy: makeup exams will be offered at the end of the semester to students with excused absences for midterms 2 and 3. The makeups will take place on one of the reading days, with date and time TBD.
Course material builds on facts and concepts from earlier in the semester, so you should consider the exams as essentially cumulative, although they will focus on more recent topics. The lectures and readings are complementary, and the exams will test you on what you’ve learned from both sources. I strongly encourage you to complete the readings before coming to class rather than the other way around.
Some of the exam questions will test your knowledge about basic concepts and facts covered in the text and lectures. Other questions will ask you to apply this information to novel situations. Some questions will be multiple choice, some will be fill-in-the-blank, and others will require short answers. We will use Collab to take the tests in class.
Writing (15%) As an exercise in experimental design, you will write a short (5 page) research proposal, which can either be based on a published study or on a novel question of your own choosing. Your task will be to explain the conceptual background, specific aims, hypotheses, methods, and potential interpretations behind the research. Your grade will be based on the comments of two of your peers and one of the instructors, and on your reviews of your peers’ proposals. More information, including the rubrics for peer and instructor evaluations, will be given to you over spring break.
Grading scale uses the standard undergraduate thresholds. See FAQ for details.
As practicing professionals, scientists trust each other to maintain the highest standards of ethics, integrity, and personal responsibility. Since you have joined this community of trust to prepare for your future career, I expect you to fully comply with all of the provisions of the UVa Honor System. In addition to pledging that you have neither received nor given aid on an assignment, your signature also affirms that you have not knowingly represented as your own any opinions or ideas that are attributable to another author in published or unpublished notes, study outlines, abstracts, articles, textbooks, or web pages. In other words, I expect that all assignments and reports are your original work and that references are cited appropriately. Breaking this trust agreement not only will result in zero credit for the assignment in question and referral to the Honor Committee but also will jeopardize your future as a professional scientist or in any field. Don’t let yourself down.
Readings from Pearce are noted with P and the chapter number. If only part of the chapter is assigned, the pages will be given in parentheses.
Schedule will be updated to reflect progress through the material. Check back frequently.
|13 Jan||History of Animal Behavior|
|15 Jan||Animal intelligence and cognition||P1|
|20 Jan||Comparative perception||Shettleworth pp. 57-77 (collab)|
|Catania, J Comp Physiol A 1999 (doi:10.1007/s003590050396)|
|22 Jan||Attention||Shettleworth pp. 77-95 (collab)|
|27 Jan||Associative learning||P2|
|29 Jan||Bottom-up influences on learning||P3 (pp. 64-74)|
|3 Feb||Top-down influences on learning||P3 (pp. 74-91)|
|Garcia and Koelling, Psychon Sci 1966 (collab)|
|10 Feb||Exam 1|
|12 Feb||Recognition and sensory processing||P6 (pp. 149-161)|
|17 Feb||Categorical perception||P7 (pp. 171-179)|
|19 Feb||Concepts||P7 (pp. 179-189)|
|24 Feb||Short-term memory (I)||P8 (pp. 191-202)|
|26 Feb||Short-term memory (II)||P8 (pp. 202-211)|
|3 Mar||Long-term memory||P9|
|Optional: memory in dogs and parrots|
|5 Mar||Class canceled for weather|
|10 Mar||no class (spring break)|
|12 Mar||no class (spring break)|
|17 Mar||Episodic memory||Clayton and Dickinson, Nature 1998 (doi:10.1038/26216)|
|How to write a research proposal||Assignment instructions|
|19 Mar||Exam 2|
|24 Mar||Research proposal question drafts due|
|Social learning||P12 (pp. 296-312)|
|26 Mar||Social behavior: conflict and cooperation||Axelrod and Hamilton, Science 1981 (doi:10.1126/science.7466396)|
|31 Mar||Social intelligence & theory of mind||P12 (pp. 312-325)|
|2 Apr||Research proposal peer report due|
|Communication and learning||P13|
|7 Apr||Spatial cognition: routes||P11 (pp. 265-283)|
|9 Apr||Spatial cognition: maps||P11 (pp. 283-295)|
|14 Apr||Time||P10 (pp. 232-243)|
|16 Apr||Numbers and relationships||P10 (pp. 243-263)|
|21 Apr||Research Proposals Due|
|Planning and predicting the consequences of behavior|
|23 Apr||Causal inference and tool use||P4 (pp. 111-121; optional)|
|28 Apr||Exam 3|
|5 May||Final 9:00-12:00|
The TAs and I are more than happy to meet with you during office hours. I will answer questions by email, immediately during office hours (unless I am speaking to another student), and within 24 hours otherwise. If you are unable to make the published office hours, you can set up an appointment by email.
Weekly review sessions are question and answer format. Please come prepared with questions from the readings and lectures.
Many students like to bring laptops to class so that they can follow along on the Powerpoints and take notes. Recent research shows, however, that college students do better on tests if they take notes by hand. Other research shows that students are not as good at multitasking as they think they are; thus, if you decide to text or check your email during lectures you will probably not retain the material as well. Because lecture materials will not be posted online, you will be at a significant disadvantage if you are not paying attention. Lastly, research shows that students are distracted by other students who use their laptops or phones to text, check email, play games, etc.
If you do decide to use an electronic device to take notes, I ask that you use it for that purpose only and do not check email, text, surf the web, etc. For students who prefer not to use electronic devices, I will reserve a Low Tech Zone at the front of the classroom. Students who choose to sit there agree not to use laptops, tablets, phones, or any other electronic device.
Check out the course FAQ.