Cognition, Evolution, and Behavior


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Sara Shettleworth's 'Cognition, Evolution and Behavior', like John Pearce's 'Animal Learning and Cognition', is a serious introduction to animal cognition. Like Pearce Shettleworth has brought together a large amount of research on different species, and her account is accessible to most literate adults with determination and an interest in animal cognition, not just people with a background in biology, psychology or allied subjects. Again, the first edition of this book proved so popular that this new, updated edition has been released, reflecting recent research in particular in social cognition. Like Pearce Shettleworth is open-minded, giving space for readers to form their own judgements, though she is a fan of learning theory. Pearce's work is easier to understand for people coming to grips with the subject, so it may help to read Pearce before tackling Shettleworth. Each book covers slightly different ground, for example, Shettleworth is more useful than Pearce if you have particular interests in cognition and evolution, and social cognition.

The book is organized into three parts: Fundamental Mechanisms (such as perception, learning, and memory), Physical Cognition (which includes space, time, and maths), and Social Cognition (which includes social learning and communication). Shettleworth goes into a number of questions, such as why cognition may have developed in animals, and whether non-humans might be said to have a culture. She backs theories with evidence in a far stronger way than, say, Wynne. For some readers, she may appear too cautious, but this caution does give readers space to make up their own minds.

'Cognition, Evolution, and Behavior' is highly recommended for people with a strong interest in animal cognition, and who are interested in topics like co-operation and altruism, in both humans and in non-human animals. You could find much of this information online, but the big strength of this book is that it pulls together knowledge from a wide range of sources, and makes connections between different areas of research.