Comparative approaches to study human cognition: possibilities, challenges, and limits
Comparative approaches to study human cognition: possibilities,
challenges, and limits.
Why should we study other species to understand the human mind? What can
we learn from comparing cognitive and communicative skills of other
primates with those of humans? What are the benefits, what are the limits
of such an approach?
In my talk, I will first introduce the field of Comparative Psychology and
our closest relatives, the nonhuman primates, with focus on great apes.
Then I will introduce a set of different methods, ranging from
observational, quasi-experimental to experimental (e.g., eyetracking,
touch-screen) and invasive (single-cell recordings) approaches to study
other primates and link them to the current “hot topics” of comparative
research, such as Theory of Mind, prosocial behavior and cooperation.
Based on recent studies from my group and other labs, I will compare
results from human children with those of nonhuman primates and discuss if
these skills are unique to humans or shared with other species. Finally, I
will refer to challenges and ethical limitations of such research and what
such studies can and can’t tell with regard to human cognition.