Psychology 4224F 001 FW23

Animal Cognition

If there is a discrepancy between the outline posted below and the outline posted on the OWL course website, the latter shall prevail.




LONDON               CANADA 

Department of Psychology 

Fall 2023 


Psychology 4224F    Section 001 

Animal Cognition 




This course examines cognition in animals, from basic mechanisms of learning and memory to specialized processes of timing, spatial orientation, numerical ability, tool use, and metacognition. The role of cognition in the lives of animals in the wild is examined along with the organization and neural basis of animal cognition.  



Antirequisite: Psychology 4290F/G, if taken in 2013/14, 2014/15 or 2015/16  


Antirequisites are courses that overlap sufficiently in content that only one can be taken for credit. If you take a course that is an antirequisite to a course previously taken, you will lose credit for the earlier course, regardless of the grade achieved in the most recent course. 


Prerequisite(s): One of Psychology 2220A/B, Psychology 2221A/B, or Neuroscience 2000, PLUS registration in fourth year Main Campus Honours Specialization in Psychology, fourth year Honours Specialization in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, fourth year Honours Specialization in Neuroscience, or fourth year Honours Specialization in Animal Behavior. Fourth year Main Campus Psychology students and Main Campus Psychology Special Students who receive 70% in the prerequisite course may enrol in this course. 

 lecture hours; Course Weight: 0.5 


Unless you have either the prerequisites for this course or written special permission from your Dean to enrol in it, you may be removed from this course and it will be deleted from your record. This decision may not be appealed. You will receive no adjustment to your fees in the event that you are dropped from a course for failing to have the necessary prerequisites. 





Instructor: Krista Macpherson, Phd  

Office and Phone Number: SSC 7230, ex: 82756    

Office Hours: By Appointment 



Time and Location of Classes: refer to Student Centre for schedule

Delivery Method: In-Person 


Students who are in emotional/mental distress should refer to Health and Wellness @Western for a complete list of options about how to obtain help. 


Please contact the course instructor if you require material in an alternate format or if you require any other arrangements to make this course more accessible to you. You may also contact Accessible Education at  or 519-661-2147. 


2.1 Online Learning Notice: 
Please note: For courses delivered in an online format, include an online component, or are required to pivot online, students must have a reliable internet connection and computer that are compatible with online learning system requirements. Some courses may also require the use of a remote proctoring platform to ensure assessments are taken fairly in accordance with Western’s policy on Scholastic Discipline for Undergraduate Students and Scholastic Discipline for Graduate Students. Please refer to the course syllabus for further information. 





No textbook; Readings will be posted to the course OWL site 




This course surveys current research in animal cognition, emphasizing the central role of cognition in the lives of animals in nature. Most behaviour has a substantial cognitive component, including foraging, migration, mate choice, parental care, and communication. Cognitive abilities such as memory, spatial orientation, numerical ability, and timing make essential contributions to survival and reproduction in nature. This course will address a broad range of questions about animal cognition, including the relation between simple rules of learning and complex cognition, evolutionary specialization of learning, and the relation between cognition in animals and humans. 


Learning Outcome  

Learning Activity  


Depth and Breadth of Knowledge.  

  • Describe and explain key concepts and research findings in animal cognition. 



  • Lectures 
  • Presentations 


  • Essay 
  • Thought Paper 

Knowledge of Methodologies.  

  • Distinguish among evolutionary, functional, causal, and developmental questions about behaviour. 
  • Differentiate among ecological, behavioural, and neural levels of analysis of behaviour. 


  • Lectures 
  • Presentations 


  • Essay  
  • Thought Paper 

Application of Knowledge.  

  • Critically evaluate concepts and theories. 
  • Formulate testable hypotheses about animal cognition. 


  • Thought Papers 
  • Essays 
  • Discussion 


  • Essay 
  • Thought Paper 
  • Presentation 

Communication Skills.  

  • Communicate ideas and research-based evidence orally and in writing in a professional manner. 



  • Thought Papers 
  • Essays 
  • Discussion 


  • Presentation 
  • Discussion 
  • Thought Paper 

Awareness of Limits of Knowledge. 

  • Thinking critically about our comparative understanding of animal cognition and limitations related to the study of non-human animals. 



  • Discussion 


  • Thought paper 
  • Essay 












The evaluation and testing formats for this course were created to assess the learning objectives as listed in section 4.0 and are considered necessary for meeting these learning objectives. 


Students are expected to attend all classes and to read all assigned material. Each student will select one of the weekly topics for which they will prepare and lead class discussion of assigned materials and additional background material. Students will usually lead class discussion in groups of two or more. An essay on the topic of the presentation will be submitted no more than 2 weeks after the presentation. Each student will also select four topics on which they will prepare short thought papers. Evaluation will be based on the presentation, essay, thought papers, and class participation. 


Participation in Discussion 10%  

Thought Papers 20% 4 at 5% each; at least 2 by Nov 8th 

Class Presentation 35% 

Essay 35% Due 2 weeks following presentation 




Participation Scores: The lowest participation for each student will be dropped. There will therefore be no accommodation for participation scores if a student misses a class. 


Presentations: Students who miss a their assigned presentation day will write a take-home exam consisting short answer/short essay questions based on the topic of their missed presentation, provided they receive approval from academic counselling. 


Essay: Students will receive an extension on the due date for their essay, provided they receive approval from academic counselling. 


Thought Papers: Students will receive an extension on the due date for their thought paper, provided they receive approval from academic counselling. 



PLEASE NOTE: Because this is an essay course, as per Senate Regulations, you must pass the essay component to pass the course. That is, the average mark for your written assignments must be at least 50%. 


This course is exempt from the Senate requirement that students receive assessment of their work accounting for at least 15% of their final grade at least three full days before the date of the deadline for withdrawal from a course without academic penalty. 



The expectation for course grades within the Psychology Department is that they will be distributed around the following averages: 


70% 1000-level to 2099-level courses 

72% 2100-2999-level courses 

75% 3000-level courses 

80% 4000-level courses 


The Psychology Department follows Western’s grading guidelines, which are as follows (see: 


A+ 90-100 One could scarcely expect better from a student at this level 

A 80-89 Superior work that is clearly above average 

B 70-79 Good work, meeting all requirements, and eminently satisfactory 

C 60-69 Competent work, meeting requirements 

D 50-59 Fair work, minimally acceptable 

F below 50           Fail 




Note that in the event that course grades are significantly higher or lower than these averages, instructors may be required to make adjustments to course grades. Such adjustment might include the normalization of one or more course components and/or the re-weighting of various course components. 


Policy on Grade Rounding: Please note that although course grades within the Psychology Department are rounded to the nearest whole number, no further grade rounding will be done. No additional assignments will be offered to enhance a final grade; nor will requests to change a grade because it is needed for a future program be considered. To maximize your grade, do your best on each and every assessment within the course. 




Leading Class Discussion: Students are expected to introduce and discuss the assigned material, raise questions about ideas and research findings, and describe any additional research results or topics they have examined. Each class discussion will be led by a group of students, and each student will participate in leading one class discussion. Students may wish to use PowerPoint to show figures, illustrations, graphs and tables. 


Essay: Can be on any topic in animal cognition, but should be sufficiently different from the class presentation topic (Please have topic approved by instructor). Maximum length is 10 double spaced pages, about 2500 words. Style should follow the American Psychological Association (APA) Publication Manual. Essays are due on the last day of class. 


Thought Papers are short (500 word maximum) reports on an assigned reading or readings for class, selected by the student. Each student will submit 4 thought papers. Thought papers on a particular topic are due a week later, before the start of the next lecture.  You may not write a thought paper about a topic that you presented in class. Thought papers are intended to be brief discussions of assigned articles and can include critiques, commentary, questions, comparisons to other research results, proposals for further research, relevant ideas discussed in other courses, or similar material. You must submit at least 2 Thought Papers by November 8th. 


Class Participation is marked on the basis of participation in discussion. Participation in class can consist of asking or answering questions about the assigned readings and class topic, contributing additional information from other courses or your own reading, or similar involvement in classroom discussion.  

















Numerical Cognition 



Spatial Ability 



Concept Learning 



Mental Time Travel 



Reading week No class 



Theory of Mind 














Object Physics and Tool Use 


8.0 Land Acknowledgement 


We acknowledge that Western University is located on the traditional lands of the Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee, Lūnaapéewak and Attawandaron peoples, on lands connected with the London Township and Sombra Treaties of 1796 and the Dish with One Spoon Covenant Wampum. 


With this, we respect the longstanding relationships that Indigenous Nations have to this land, as they are the original caretakers. We acknowledge historical and ongoing injustices that Indigenous Peoples (e.g. First Nations, Métis and Inuit) endure in Canada, and we accept responsibility as a public institution to contribute toward revealing and correcting miseducation, as well as renewing respectful relationships with Indigenous communities through our teaching, research and community service. 





Students are responsible for understanding the nature and avoiding the occurrence of plagiarism and other scholastic offences. Plagiarism and cheating are considered very serious offences because they undermine the integrity of research and education. Actions constituting a scholastic offence are described at the following link: 


As of Sept. 1, 2009, the Department of Psychology will take the following steps to detect scholastic offences. All multiple-choice tests and exams will be checked for similarities in the pattern of responses using reliable software, and records will be made of student seating locations in all tests and exams. All written assignments will be submitted to TurnItIn, a service designed to detect and deter plagiarism by comparing written material to over 5 billion pages of content located on the Internet or in TurnItIn’s databases. All papers submitted for such checking will be included as source documents in the reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of papers subsequently submitted to the system. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement, currently between Western and ( 


Computer-marked multiple-choice tests and/or exams will be subject to submission for similarity review by software that will check for unusual coincidences in answer patterns that may indicate cheating. 


In classes that involve the use of a personal response system (PRS), data collected using the PRS will only be used in a manner consistent to that described in this outline. It is the instructor’s responsibility to make every effort to ensure that data remain confidential. However, students should be aware that as with all forms of electronic communication, privacy is not guaranteed. Your PRS login credentials are for your sole use only. Students attempting to use another student’s credentials to submit data through the PRS may be subject to academic misconduct proceedings.  


Possible penalties for a scholastic offence include failure of the assignment/exam, failure of the course, suspension from the University, and expulsion from the University. 



Tests and examinations for online courses will be conducted using a remote proctoring service. By taking this course, you are consenting to the use of this software and acknowledge that you will be required to provide personal information (including some biometric data) and the session will be recorded.  Completion of this course will require you to have a reliable internet connection and a device that meets the technical requirements for this service. More information about this remote proctoring service, including technical requirements, is available on Western’s Remote  




Proctoring website at: 

In the event that in-person exams are unexpectedly canceled, you may only be given notice of the use of a proctoring service a short time in advance. 




Western’s policy on Accommodation for Medical Illness can be found at: 


If you experience an extenuating circumstance (e.g., illness, injury) sufficiently significant to temporarily make you unable to meet academic requirements, you may request accommodation through the following routes:  

  1. For medical absences, submitting a Student Medical Certificate (SMC) signed by a licensed medical or mental health practitioner in order to be eligible for Academic Consideration;  
  1. For non-medical absences, submitting appropriate documentation (e.g., obituary, police report, accident report, court order, etc.) to Academic Counselling in their Faculty of registration in order to be eligible for academic consideration. Students are encouraged to contact their Academic Counselling unit to clarify what documentation is appropriate. 


Students must see the Academic Counsellor and submit all required documentation in order to be approved for certain accommodation. 


Students seeking academic consideration: 

  • are advised to consider carefully the implications of postponing tests or midterm exams or delaying handing in work;   
  • must communicate with their instructors no later than 24 hours after the end of the period covered SMC, or immediately upon their return following a documented absence 


Students seeking accommodation for religious purposes are advised to contact Academic Counselling at least three weeks prior to the religious event and as soon as possible after the start of the term. 


12.0 Contingency Plan for Return to Lockdown: IN-Person & Blended classes 


In the event of a COVID-19 resurgence or any other event that necessitates the course delivery moving away from face-to-face interaction, all remaining course content will be delivered entirely online, either synchronously (i.e., at the times indicated in the timetable) or asynchronously (e.g., posted on OWL for students to view at their convenience). The grading scheme will not change. Any remaining assessments will also be conducted online, as determined by the course instructor. 




In courses involving online interactions, the Psychology Department expects students to honour the following rules of etiquette: 

  • please “arrive” to class on time 
  • please use your computer and/or laptop if possible (as opposed to a cell phone or tablet) 
  • please ensure that you are in a private location to protect the confidentiality of discussions in the event that a class discussion deals with sensitive or personal material 
  • to minimize background noise, kindly mute your microphone for the entire class until you are invited to speak, unless directed otherwise 
  • In classes larger than 30 participants please turn off your video camera for the entire class unless you are invited to speak 


  • In classes of 30 students or fewer, where video chat procedures are being used, please be prepared to turn your video camera off at the instructor’s request if the internet connection becomes unstable 
  • Unless invited by your instructor, do not share your screen in the meeting 


The course instructor will act as moderator for the class and will deal with any questions from participants. To participate please consider the following: 

  • If you wish to speak, use the “raise hand” function and wait for the instructor to acknowledge you before beginning your comment or question. 
  • Please remember to unmute your microphone and turn on your video camera before speaking. 
  • Self-identify when speaking. 
  • Please remember to mute your mic and turn off your video camera after speaking (unless directed otherwise). 


General considerations of “netiquette”: 

  • Keep in mind the different cultural and linguistic backgrounds of the students in the course. 
  • Be courteous toward the instructor, your colleagues, and authors whose work you are discussing. 
  • Be respectful of the diversity of viewpoints that you will encounter in the class and in your readings. The exchange of diverse ideas and opinions is part of the scholarly environment. “Flaming” is never appropriate. 
  • Be professional and scholarly in all online postings. Use proper grammar and spelling. Cite the ideas of others appropriately. 


Note that disruptive behaviour of any type during online classes, including inappropriate use of the chat function, is unacceptable. Students found guilty of Zoom-bombing a class or of other serious online offenses may be subject to disciplinary measures under the Code of Student Conduct. 




Office of the Registrar:   


Student Development Services:  


Psychology Undergraduate Program: 


If you wish to appeal a grade, please read the policy documentation at: 

Please first contact the course instructor. If your issue is not resolved, you may make your appeal to the Undergraduate Chair in Psychology ( 


Copyright Statement: Lectures and course materials, including power point presentations, outlines, videos and similar materials, are protected by copyright. You may take notes and make copies of course materials for your own educational use. You may not record lectures, reproduce (or allow others to reproduce), post or distribute any course materials publicly and/or for commercial purposes without the instructor’s written consent. 


Policy on the Recording of Synchronous Sessions: Some or all of the remote learning sessions for this course (if scheduled) may be recorded. The data captured during these recordings may include your image, voice recordings, chat logs and personal identifiers (name displayed on the screen). The recordings will be used for educational purposes related to this course, including evaluations. The recordings may be disclosed to other individuals participating in the course for their private or group study purposes. Please contact the instructor if you have any concerns related to session recordings. Participants in this course are not permitted to privately record the sessions, except where recording is an approved accommodation, or the student has the prior written permission of the instructor.