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Animal cognition is that branch of the biological sciences that studies how animals perceive, learn about, remember, understand, and respond to the world in which they live. The mechanisms it investigates are evolved ways of processing information that promote the fitness or survival of the organisms that possess them. Interesting new findings about animal cognition have been revealed as part of the cognitive revolutions in psychology of the last 30 years. Among these are insights into how animals keep track of time, how they process numerical information, and how they navigate through space. Studies of time representation show that animals have one clock that keeps track of the time of day and another clock that times intervals as short as a few seconds. Other research indicates that animals can accurately estimate numbers of events and perhaps even summate numbers of objects and symbols that stand for numbers. Experiments on spatial representation have shown that animals use egocentric and allocentric cues to navigate from place to place. Egocentric cues are internal and are used for dead reckoning return vectors to a home base; allocentric cues are external cues, such as an environmental framework or landmarks, that are used by animals to remember and find important locations in space. Animal cognition studies also have revealed evidence for some advanced processes. As examples, pigeons show conceptual ability by learning to sort photographs into categories of people, flowers, cars, and chairs, and chimpanzees seem to reveal a theory of mind by behaving as if they understand the contents of other chimpanzees' minds.
The American constitutional system and the realities of American politics make the personal qualities of the American chief executive of great importance for the nation and the world. A variety of intellectual strategies have been proposed for studying presidential psychology. Because the matter of who occupies the Oval Office can have literal life and death consequences, presidential personality requires close, continuing intellectual attention.
Since the early 1980s there has been a surge of interest in the cognitive basis of our common sense ‘theory of mind’ and how it develops. According to our common sense, other people act because they have mental states of various kinds, for example, intentions, desires, beliefs, hopes, etc.; furthermore, such states have contents, for example, the belief that it is raining has the content ‘it is raining’ and the desire to avoid paying taxes has the content ‘avoid paying taxes.’ Contents individuate mental states (for example, determine which belief or which desire a person has) and play a critical role in causing behavior. Even preschool children have been found to attribute these sorts of mental states to other people and to treat these states-with-contents as causes of behavior. Children who are learning disabled can also employ such a theory of mind, suggesting that it is not the result of a general intellectual ability. Children with autistic disorder are selectively impaired in theory of mind ability even though their general intellectual abilities may be normal. Theory of mind is a key cognitive ability comprising the human social instinct. The psychological mechanisms underlying this ability are of intense current interest but their nature remains controversial.