University of Utah
Psychology 311
Comparative Psychology "The animal mind in nature, in the laboratory, and in human society"
Instructor: Charles P. Shimp, 1031 Beh. Sci. Bldg.
Ext. 581-8483 (voice mail)

Required text: Domjan and Burkhard's The Principles of learning, and behavior (1993). Pacific
Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Relatively simple cognitive processes of animals. Perception, attention, memory, and decision-making in contexts of Pavlovian and operant conditioning in laboratory and naturalistic settings. Service-learning-track students facilitate the work of community organizations that promote the use of nonhuman animals on behalf of human welfare (such as seeing-eye dogs), or promote the improvement of the relation between humans and nonhuman animals in the natural environment (Department of Wildlife Management), in education (Hogel Zoo, Tracy Aviary, Museum of Natural History), and in science (U of U Vivarium). 4 hours. Anticipated quarters taught in academic year 97-98: Fall and Winter.

Description of how the class meets each criterion.

  1. Students will provide needed services. The service component of this course is designed to assist not-for-profit community organizations which either directly use nonhuman animals on behalf of members of the community, or which develop and promote programs to improve the understanding by the public of the role of nonhuman animals in education and science. All of these organizations depend on volunteer efforts to improve their programs. Volunteers will work to improve the "quality of life" of nonhuman animals in captivity and in the wild.
  2. Service learning is content relevant. Service-learning activities will inform and challenge the material students receive in the classroom and in readings, all of which deal with the laboratory science of the nonhuman animal mind, and accordingly with nonhuman animal "mental life". Students see for themselves how laboratory and naturalistic accounts agree or disagree.
  3. Classroom workshops and student papers will focus on the relation between service-learning activities and course content. Relations between popular and scientific conceptions of nonhuman animal mental life will be near the core of both academic and service-learning activities. (Also please see # 2 above.)
  4. Students' learning through service will be evaluated. Students will keep journals, write a paper, discuss service learning in class, and have their final exam grade depend on how well they understand relations between their service-learning experiences and the academic content of the course.
  5. Placement coordinators will not only supervise but also evaluate student volunteer service. Coordinators will be contacted weekly by the instructor or TA and will evaluate students attendance and contribution to the agency's needs.
  6. The course will promote the development of good citizens. The course will provide students with a better understanding of social, economic and ethical issues related to the role of nonhuman animals in our culture and in other cultures. It is to be hoped that the course will provide examples of how diverse and strongly-held opinions, sometimes deriving from religious beliefs, can benefit society rather than contribute to its ills.
  7. Academic course work will improve volunteer service. The laboratory science will inform students' opinions about the mental life of different species, and therefore, about what activities different species can be expected to perform and/or understand.
  8. Classmates will learn from one another. Four in-class workshops will permit students to learn about other students' service-learning activities, and the electronic bulletin board will facilitate dialog among students.

Please note that the listed service-learning placements are provisional. Negotiations are taking place with individuals at these and other possible placements. Some changes between now and Fall quarter are likely, but the provisional list gives a good idea of the kinds of placements to be offered. In addition, I will develop a written contract each service-learning student will read and sign. This contract will specify the student's service-learning obligations and commitments.

Lastly, you should know that the Faculty Assistance Subcommittee has awarded me a Starter/Mentor grant, with Dr. Malloy and me as Mentor and Starter, respectively, to support the purchase of computer equipment to upgrade the instructional effectiveness of this course. Of the various proposed computer-related improvements, perhaps the one most relevant to the proposed service-learning track is an electronic bulletin board. This will be part of the course's web page and will facilitate interactive dialogs between me and other students. Course material and descriptions of service learning placements will be placed on the web. I am hoping that service learning activities, including successes and problems, will be a chief topic of the instructor-student and student-student dialogs on the bulletin board.

Course Objectives:

Firstly, the course has traditional liberal-education goals. We will examine how the human condition depends on how humans and nonhuman animals interact in terms of science, religion, economics, human welfare, and ethics. Secondly, the course is designed to be a professional preparation course for students who think they may at some time enter a graduate program in psychology or some allied field such as educational psychology or social work. Accordingly, we will cover the basics of the contemporary laboratory science of comparative cognition. The predecessor of this field was known as "conditioning and learning". Thirdly, a service-learning component provides a way for students to provide volunteer service to the community in a way that integrates with the intellectual course goals. For most students who choose the service learning path, this will involve a hands-on approach to some way in which humans and nonhuman animals interact. The course will first focus on the laboratory science of animal cognition, and then as students acquire experience in their service-learning placements, the way the science and the "real world" interact will take on a greater role.

The role of service learning:

This section addresses the following questions: Why does the course have a service learning track? What is this track's educational mission? How does it work? How does it affect grades? Why service learning? Student volunteerism is now one of the striking features of higher education, both locally and nationally. Why is this so? Students facing a course designed around classic liberal educational goals, including the present one, frequently wish to know, and rightly so, how the general principles discussed in class apply to the world outside the classroom. In addition, many students wish to contribute, through volunteer service, to the improvement of the community in which they live. Service learning addresses both wishes. It is important to emphasize that the service-learning track is intimately related to the traditional academic goals of the class. The service-learning placements will provide rich opportunities for students to apply class material, and also opportunities to challenge the validity and generality of some of the theoretical material. These challenges will help clarify how current scientific theory may need to be improved.

The service-learning track will involve your keeping a journal, participation in one or more class workshops, and a service-learning paper. Each of these features is described below.

Student journals. Each student who selects the service-learning track will keep a journal. This journal will contain a student's most pithy observations about their volunteer work and how it relates to class material. It will contain questions, any concerns a student may have about their placement, and insights into the relation between class material and its relevance (or lack thereof!) to the placement. A student will write one journal page per week, and then submit it to the instructor. Either he or a TA will read it, make comments, assign it a grade of I to 4 (4 high, 1 low) and return it to you. At the end of the term, each student will submit the entire journal for review and evaluation as a whole (again, scored from I to 4). The number of points earned by the journal entries will be added to the number of points earned by weekly volunteer service, to get a total number of service-learning points.

Class reflections. Four class meetings focus on major theoretical issues from class material and how they are either implicitly or explicitly involved in service-learning activities. For example, some placements require a student to learn to observe naturalistic behavior, and such observational skills can be related to other psychological activities, even to those far beyond the scope of the present class, such as to a therapist's learning to dispassionately observe a client. These class reflections will also address some problems that might arise in service-learning placements, and how to solve them. These four workshops will provide students who do not choose the service-learning track with a crucial opportunity to learn how the class material relates to the world outside the laboratory and classroom. All students are expected to participate in these workshops.

Service-learning paper. Students selecting the service-learning track will write a two- to four-page paper that summarizes their service-learning activities in terms of the academic goals of the course. This paper should not merely duplicate material in student journals, which are likely to deal with particularistic details of weekly activities. Instead, the paper should put your entire service-learning work in the perspective of large-scale theoretical issues. The paper will be due on Fri day Dec 12.

A list of service-learning placements appears near the end of this syllabus, along with a short description of each. One or more placement settings are on or near campus, so that students without transportation can still elect the service-learning track. Each student is expected to volunteer 3 hours per week. It is hoped that most of the service-learning placement coordinators will be able to attend the second day of class, when they will give a 5-minute description of their placements.

Traditional track. A traditional alternative is provided for students who do not select the service-learning track. This traditional track will involve the same exams, the same basic grading procedure (see below), participation in classroom service-learning discussion workshops, and an academic/research paper of greater length and conceptual and technical depth, to reflect the greater time available to students in the traditional track. This paper will be 12 to 15 pages long and will be graded to a higher standard of scholarly excellence, in terms of attention to details of classroom material and reading material. It should also incorporate material discussed in reflection groups. It will be due Friday Dec 12.

Time by which a track must be chosen:

Detailed information about the placements will be provided during the first week of class. A student must identify in writing the track he or she prefers by the end of the first week. A form will be provided for this purpose, and must be returned to the TA by the end of the first week. A student must have contacted the corresponding placement coordinator and have arranged the details of the volunteer service by the end of the second week of class. Either the instructor or the TA will contact each placement coordinator weekly to determine how the placement is working out in general, and how each student at that placement is doing. Slots in some placements may be limited, and slots will be filled in a first-come, first-served order.


Your grade will be determined in a way that depends on which track you choose. For the service-learning track, your grade will depend on two exams (20% each), a final exam (20%), a paper (1 0 %) due near the end of the quarter, attendance (5 %), class participation (5 %), and weekly journal and volunteer service (attendance and quality of service) (20%). For the traditional track, your grade will depend on the same two exams (20% each), the final (30%), a paper (20 %), attendance (5 %), and class participation (5 %).

Exam format: The class schedule shows the tentative dates for the three exams. They will require short essay answers to basic issues discussed in lectures, readings, or the service-learning workshops. I will look for coherence, clarity, and understanding of important issues. I will look for evidence that you have read and understand the relevant reading assignments, understand the relevant class lectures, and have thought about any important relations between these and service-learning activities as described in the four workshops. Exams will be limited to the 50-min class time, so I will not expect comprehensive answers. However, I will expect your answers to reflect a wise use of time, so that you at least touch on several important issues. Note! The exams are cumulative, in the sense that a topic covered previously may occur on a later exam, and I will expect you to display cumulative knowledge of how the various topics interrelate. This will be especially important on the final exam and in your paper.

Finally, this course is a great opportunity for you to display your critical thinking skills. For example, you can really shine if you carefully notice the nature of the evidence supporting a position you describe; if support for some idea consists of the results from an experiment, you could summarize the method, the results, and critically evaluate how the results do or do not provide evidence for the claim. You are strongly encouraged to interrelate your own personal views with those we discuss. In fact, one thing you could do that would mightily impress me is to describe your own view in a way that shows you are aware of how class material sheds light on why a person might, or might not, want to hold it. In other words, you could be as critical of your own ideas as you are of those of others.

Make-up exams typically will not be available. They will be given in only very rare cases of illness or emergency. Any make-up exam will be different from the missed exam.

The class session before each exam will be set aside for advice from the instructor and for student questions about the exam.

I will take attendance at the beginning of every class. In order to facilitate this, there will be a required seating plan. You are entitled to three sick days without explanation.

Grades will be assigned according to the percentage of all possible points a student earns. 93 % and above will earn an A. 90 to 92 % will earn an A-. 88-89 % earns a B +, 83-87 % earns a B, 80-82 % earns a B-, and so on.

Final grades will be posted on Shaylin Zorn's office door. She is the 10th-floor secretary and her office is 1001. You will be identified by a code name you will invent. If the grades are not yet posted, that means I am still hard at work grading exams and reading papers.

Tentative course outline Assigned readings are available at the reserve desk in the Marriott Library, where you can either read the papers or make copies for yourself. Please note that copyright laws are such that there are only two copies of each reading, so it will be helpful for you either to read or copy the readings long before exams.

M, Sep 29. Mechanics and objectives, role of service learning

WI Oct 1. Presentations by service-learning placement coordinators. Overview of comparative

         psychology: Before and after Clever Hans
         F, Oct 3.  Pavlovian conditioning as learning a causal rule
         M, Oct 6.  Autoshaping to language: Is conditioning 
mechanical or cognitive?  Why the answer
         W. Oct 8   Blocking, surprise, and selective and spatial 
         F, Oct 10.      Radical behaviorism, the Law of Effect, and 
temporal contiguity: Thomdike and

M, Oct 13. Context: Configural conditioning, contrast, and errorless learning
W, Oct 15. Gestalt psychology and insight F, Oct 17.Latent learning, transposition, place learning, and the traveling salesman problem

M, Oct 20. Catch-up and review for exam W, Oct 22.Exam # 1
F, Oct 24.First service-learning workshop: Control of behavior

M. Oct 27. From the alphabet to abstract concepts W, Oct 29. Can nonhuman animals learn abstract decision rules? F, Oct 31.... continuation of topics from Monday and Wednesday

M, Nov 3. Memory encoding: is it remembering or anticipating? W, Nov 5. and, is it automatic or controlled, and is it for events or for ordered events?
F, Nov 7. Can nonhuman animals time? Scalar timing and temporal bisection as examples of how
psychophysics allows us to examine the mental life of organisms that don't talk

M, Nov 10. Evolution, and the "real world": Foraging, caching, singing, and deceiving
W, Nov 12. ... continuation of topics from Monday F, Nov 14.Second service-learning workshop: The animal mind

          M, Nov 17.     Catch-up and review for exam
          W, Nov 19.     Exam # 2
          F, Nov 21.     Learned helplessness, learned taste 

aversion, addiction

          M, Nov 24.     ...continuation of topics from Wednesday
          W, Nov 26.     In what sense can animals learn a language?
          F, Nov 28.     (No class-Thanksgiving recess)
         M, Dec 1.  Third service-learning workshop: Economics, human 
         W, Dec 3.  How far down does cognition go? (honeybees and 
         F, Dec 5.  How is the non-verbal knowledge of a human expert 
(say a radiologist looking at an
         x-ray chart, John Stockton passing to Karl Malone, or a 
chess master) related to the
         knowledge of an animal doing its everyday stuff In general, 
what is the relation
         between aware and non-aware knowledge?  What did Freud have 

to say about this?

M, Dec 8. An example of philosophy disguised as science: Pavlovian conditioning as a

laboratory implementation of Empiricist and associative epistemology.

W, Dec 10. Fourth ser-vice-learning workshop: Ethics, animal welfare

F, Dec 12. Review for final exam. Paper due.

Final Exam: (date to be determined)

Service Learning Placements

Note that some placements involve actual contact with animals, and others, on behalf of people with allergies, etc., do not. Also, some placements are on or near campus, so that students without transportation can participate in the service learning component. To give an idea of the kind of service students will provide, the example of Tracy Aviary is described in some detail.

Tracy Aviary. Contact: LeeAnn Norris. Beeper 248-0271, 596-8500. The basic service is to develop and provide behavioral enrichment for some of the birds at the aviary. What is behavioral enrichment? Animals in zoos inhabit environments very different from their natural habitats, and in particular, provide many fewer opportunities for some naturalistic behaviors. A student's job will be to learn to observe a bird, hypothesize how its living environment could be enriched, to implement a corresponding enrichment program, and to evaluate any impact the program might have. Note general similarities with behavioral enrichment programs for children living in environments impoverished in terms of opportunities to engage in some behaviors.

Hogel Zoo. Contact: Rich Henderson Guide Dogs for the Blind (4H). Contact: Susan Crowley (571-1039). This placement will involve service related to the 4H seeing-eye guide dog program. Activities include actual training of puppies, such as to attend selectively to some environmental events and to ignore others. Emotional, behavioral, and cognitive training may be involved. Puppies successfully passing this stage of training may eventually become guide dogs, after much additional training, so that this placement has very serious implications for the welfare of potential owners.

University of Utah Vivarium. Contact: Dr. Jack Taylor (581-6840). Basic volunteer service emphasis: environmental enrichment.

State of Utah Fish & Game Department. Contact: to be determined

State of Utah Wildlife Resources. Contact: to be determined

U of U Museum of Natural History. Contact: Claudia Oaks

Date: Tue, 13 May 1997 15:59:45 MST
From: Renee Buchanan <>