Blog Archive

Saturday, June 23, 2018

UQAM / ISC 2018 Summer School in Cognitive Science

The Other Minds Problem:  Animal Sentience and Cognition

-->  VIDEO ARCHIVE  <-- 
for all 29 Presentations, 10 Panels & 9 Workshops

Overview. Since Descartes, philosophers know that there is no way to know for sure what — or whether — others feel (not even if they tell you). Science, however, is not about certainty but about probability and evidence. The 7.5 billion members of the human species can tell us what they are feeling. But there are 9 million other species on the planet, from elephants to jellyfish (20 quintillion individuals), with which humans share biological and cognitive ancestry, but not one other species can speak: Which of them can feel — and what do they feel? Their human spokespersons — the comparative psychologists, ethologists, evolutionists, and cognitive neurobiologists who are the world’s leading experts in “mind-reading" other species -- will provide a sweeping panorama of what it feels like to be an elephant, ape, whale, cow, pig, dog, chicken, mouse, fish, lizard, lobster, snail: This growing body of facts about nonhuman sentience has profound implications not only for our understanding of human cognition, but for our treatment of other sentient species.

Survol : Depuis Descartes, les philosophes s’entendent sur le fait qu’il n’y a aucun moyen de savoir avec certitude ni ce que ressent un autre être, ni s’il ressent quoi que ce soit (même s’il vous le dit). Or, la science n’est pas une question de certitude, mais de probabilité et de preuves. Les 7,5 milliards de membres de l’espèce humaine peuvent se raconter ce qu’ils ressentent. Mais il y a 9 millions d’autres espèces sur la planète, à partir des microbes jusqu’aux mammifères, avec lesquelles les humains partagent une ascendance biologique et cognitive, mais aucune de ces espèces ne possède la parole : lesquelles d’entre elles ont le ressenti? Et  qu’est-ce qu’elles ressentent? Pour répondre à ces questions, leurs porte-paroles humains - les psychologues comparatifs, les éthologues, les évolutionnistes et les neurobiologistes cognitifs, experts éminents en « lecture des pensées » des autres espèces – nous communiqueront à quoi ça ressemble d’être un éléphant, un singe, une baleine, une vache, un cochon, un poulet, une souris, un poisson, un lézard, un homard, un escargot. Ces nouvelles connaissances concernant la sensibilité non humaine ont des implications profondes, non seulement concernant la nature de la cognition humaine, mais aussi concernant notre traitement des autres espèces sensibles.

Courses ISC100J, ISC800J and ISC900J

The other minds problem: animal sentience and cognition
Summer School in Cognitive sciences,  June 26 – July 6, 2018.
Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)
Room : DS-R510
Professor : Stevan Harnad

Objective and Evaluation 

1.    A 20-page term Paper on a topic related to the themes of the summer school: (50%) 

·      Assessment criteria: 

o  Do you understand the issues addressed in your paper? Are the key concepts well defined? Do you justify your remarks? Do the arguments support your thesis? Does the essay have a clear and coherent structure? Is your main thesis well stated and highlighted? Do you state clearly what you are trying to demonstrate in your paper? Is your style simple, easy to read and understand? Do you illustrate your thesis with examples? Do you present the views of other researchers?

2. On the Summer School blog post comments and pose questions on most if not all the lectures: (20%)

3. Attendance: (10%)

4. Active participation in afternoon Panel discussion:  (20%)

Language of Submission

Students in this course have the right to submit any written work to be graded in English or in French. 

Le problème des autres esprits: la sensibilité animale et la cognition

École d'été en sciences cognitives, du 26 juin au 6 juillet 2018.
Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)

Salle: DS-R510
Professeur: Stevan Harnad

Objectif et évaluation

1. Un document de 20 pages sur un sujet lié aux thèmes de l'université d'été : (50%)

Critères d'évaluation: Comprenez-vous les problèmes abordés dans votre document? Les concepts clés sont-ils bien définis? Est-ce que vous justifiez vos remarques? Les arguments soutiennent-ils votre thèse? L'essai a-t-il une structure claire et cohérente? Votre thèse principale est-elle bien énoncée et mise en évidence? Décrivez-vous clairement ce que vous essayez de démontrer dans votre document? Votre style est-il simple, facile à lire et à comprendre? Est-ce que vous illustrez votre thèse avec des exemples? Présentez-vous les opinions d'autres chercheurs?

2. Sur le blog de l'école d'été, afficher des commentaires et posez des questions sur la plupart sinon toutes les conférences :  (20%)

3. Présence : (10%)

4. Participation active à la discussion de l'après-midi : (20%)

Les étudiants inscrits ont le droit de soumettre tout travail écrit à noter en anglais ou en français.

Gregory Berns: Decoding the Dog's Mind with Awake Neuroimaging (Tuesday, June 26, 9am)

Gregory Berns:  
(Tuesday, June 26, 9am)

Gregory S. Berns (Speaker)
Professor Emory University

Mireille Goulet 
B.Sc. National Research Council Canada

The domestic dog’s accessibility and social intelligence and their evolutionary history with humans have led to increasing interest in canine cognition. Despite a growing body of data on canine behavior and cognitive skills, relatively few advances have been made in understanding canine brain function. Practical and ethical concerns had limited the use of the invasive brain-imaging techniques typically used with primates and rodents . However, the demonstration that dogs can be trained to participate cooperatively in fMRI studies has opened up a wealth of new data about canine brain function. Many of these studies have investigated the dog’s preternatural social intelligence, focusing on neural pathways associated with different types of reward, including social reward, and face and language processing. These studies have implications for our understanding of canine brain function, and -- because of dogs’ close relations with humans -- may also help us understand human development and pathology.
Cook, Peter; Prichard, Ashley; Spivak, Mark; and Berns, Gregory S. (2018) Jealousy in dogs? Evidence from brain imagingAnimal Sentience 22(1)
Cook PF, Prichard A, Spivak M, Berns GS: Awake canine fMRI predicts dogs' preference for praise versus food. Soc Cog Affect Neurosci, 11:1853-1862, 2016. 
Dilks DD, Cook P, Weiller SK, Berns HP, Spivak M, Berns GS: Awake fMRI reveals a specialized region in dog temporal cortex for face processing. PeerJ, 3:e1115, 2015. 
Berns GS, Brooks AM, Spivak M, Levy K: Functional MRI in awake dogs predicts suitability for assistance work. Sci Rep 7:43704, 2017. 
Berns G: What It's Like to Be a Dog. And Other Adventures in Animal Neuroscience. Basic Books, Sept. 2017. New Yorker Book Review 

Gordon Burghardt: Probing the Umwelt of Reptiles (Tuesday, June 26, 11am)

Gordon Burghardt:  
(Tuesday, June 26, 11am)

Gordon Burghardt (Speaker)
Alumni Distinguished Service Professor University of Tennessee

David M. Green 
Professor of Biology, McGill University

The perceptual worlds of non-avian reptiles differ significantly from our own. They are a diverse group living in many different habitats with diverse life styles, diets, predators, sociality, and modes of communication. Having worked with many species over many decades I have developed and used several methods to try to understand their Umwelt and how they negotiate their environments, from birth and hatching to adulthood. Many other labs have contributed to our understanding in recent years as well, with new and unexpected findings. This presentation will overview our knowledge of reptile perception across all the major groups.
Rivas, J. A., & Burghardt, G. M. (2001). Understanding sexual size dimorphism in snakes: wearing the snake's shoesAnimal Behaviour, 62(3), F1-F6.
Burghardt, G. M. (2017). AnthropomorphismEncyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior, 1-4.



Jon Sakata: Audience Effects on Communication Signals (Tuesday, June 26, 2pm)

Jon Sakata:  
  (Tuesday, June 26, 2pm)

Jon Sakata 
Professor McGill University

Clint Dale Kelly 
Professeur Université du Québec à Montréal

The structure of communication signals can change depending on the social and physical environment. Social influences on signaling and signal structure have been proposed to reflect cognitive processes underlying communicative behaviors. I will review studies from my lab, describing how social audiences affect the performance of song in songbirds and discussing the extent to which these studies provide insight into the social brain.  

James, L. S., Dai, J. B., & Sakata, J. T. (2018). Ability to modulate birdsong across social contexts develops without imitative social learningBiology Letters14(3), 20170777.

Chen, Y., Matheson, L. E., & Sakata, J. T. (2016). Mechanisms underlying the social enhancement of vocal learning in songbirdsProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences113(24), 6641-6646.

James, L. S., & Sakata, J. T. (2017). Learning Biases Underlie “Universals” in Avian Vocal SequencingCurrent Biology27(23), 3676-3682.

PANEL 1: Reptiles, Birds and Mammals (Tuesday, June 26, 4pm)

  (Tuesday, June 26, 4pm)

Humane Society International
University of Tennessee
Alumni Distinguished Service Professor
McGill University
Emory University

WORKSHOP 1: Kristin Andrews: The "Other" Problems: Mind, Behavior, and Agency (Tuesday, June 26, 7:30pm)

WORKSHOP 1:  Kristin Andrews:  
(Tuesday, June 26, 7:30pm) 

Mind-reading, or the ability to attribute mental states to others, is a familiar and significant ability for adult humans, and the investigation into whether humans are alone in this capacity has been a vexed topic over the last forty years. There are three key complexities to the investigation: one, there are a host of different kinds of content that could be mind-read (e.g. perceptual states, emotions, beliefs); two, there are a host of different kinds of methods for coming to learn about others’ mental content (e.g. perception, cognitive attribution, mirroring plus interoception); three, we lack a good understanding of these capacities in humans, and false assumptions can lead the investigation into animal mind-reading astray. With these complexities on the table, we can turn to the recent research suggesting that great apes attribute false belief to others (Krupenye et al. 2016; Buttelmann et al. 2017). I will argue that these studies do not provide converging evidence that apes have the concept of belief or can attribute belief to others, and that likewise the infant studies that these experiments are based on fail to offer evidence of belief attribution, at least on familiar representational accounts of what a belief is. I will present an alternative function for belief attribution, namely, the explanation of anomalous behavior. I’ll discuss the extent to which other species might have this capacity, and what sorts of studies we could do in order to better investigate the question of mind-reading belief across species. I will also discuss the importance of looking at the ways different species may solve their own versions of the other minds problem.

Andrews, K., & Huss, B. (2014). Anthropomorphism, anthropectomy, and the null hypothesisBiology & Philosophy29(5), 711-729. 
Andrews, K., & Gruen, L. (2014). Empathy in other apes. 
Andrews, K., & Radenovic, L. (2008). Animal cognitionThe International Encyclopedia of Ethics.
Andrews, K., Crozier, G., Donaldson, S., Fenton, A., Johnson, L. S. M., Jones, R., ... & Rocha, J. (2018). The Philosophers' Brief on Chimpanzee Personhood.  
Domes, G., Heinrichs, M., Michel, A., Berger, C., & Herpertz, S. C. (2007). Oxytocin improves “mind-reading” in humansBiological Psychiatry61(6), 731-733.

Kristin Andrews (Speaker)
York University

Christiane Bailey 
Université de Montréal
Gordon Burghardt 
Alumni Distinguished Service Professor University of Tennessee

Stevan Harnad 
Professor UQÀM & McGill

Sarah Brosnan: How Do Primates Feel About Their Social Partners? (Wednesday, June 27, 9am)

Sarah Brosnan:  
  (Wednesday, June 27, 9am)

Sarah Brosnan (Speaker)
Georgia State University

Kristin Andrews (Discussant)
York University

Alexander G. Ophir 
Cornell University

When we talk about human cooperation, we often use language that focuses on feelings: partners “like” each other or are “frustrated” by the other’s behavior. Other species also cooperate, but we tend to focus more on the outcomes of their interactions than onwhat they feel. This is due in no small part to the difficulty of knowing what they feel; unlike with humans, we can’t simply ask them. However, looking at their behavioral reactions during such interactions may give us some insight into their affective state. One of the foci of my work concerns how non-human primates respond when they are treated less well than a partner. Our data indicate that, like humans, other species feel frustrated or agitated by these interactions. I propose that these feelings are among the proximate mechanisms that lead the animal to quit cooperating or to change partners, both of which are partner choice mechanisms that benefit individuals in the long run. I will present these results and consider the degree to which we can understand what other species are feeling.

Brosnan, S. F., & Bshary, R. (2016). On potential links between inequity aversion and the structure of interactions for the evolution of cooperationBehaviour153(9-11), 1267-1292.

Brosnan, S. F., & de Waal, F. B. (2014). Evolution of responses to (un) fairnessScience346(6207), 1251776. 
Brosnan, S. F., Beran, M. J., Parrish, A. E., Price, S. A., & Wilson, B. J. (2013). Comparative approaches to studying strategy: Towards an evolutionary account of primate decision makingEvolutionary Psychology11(3),