CS-0330: Cognition and Behavior in Domesticated Animals

Domesticated animals - agricultural livestock such as sheep, cattle, pigs, and chickens as well as companion animals like dogs and cats - are of deep importance to human society. The primary focus of the course is on how domestication shapes the mental and behavioral characteristics of these animals. We also explore related issues in human-animal interaction, animal welfare, and agricultural practice. Learning, socialization, biological development, and evolution are central themes; in addition, we undertake some comparative discussion of the wild counterparts of domesticated animals, explore the nature of feralization, and look at cases (like elephants), which raise questions about how domestication is defined. Primarily a reading and discussion seminar, we engage with several dozen papers from the professional scientific literature, and, for their final project students are expected to grapple with a question of their own choosing in the form of a literature review, a critique of published work, or a study or proposal for a study of their own. Prerequisite: Prior work in the biological and/or cognitive sciences