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Animal Cognition  

Sarah Krichbaum, Adam Davila, Lucia Lazarowski, and Jeffrey S. Katz

The contemporary field of animal cognition began over 150 years ago when Charles Darwin posed questions regarding the abilities of the animal mind. Animal cognition is a science dedicated to understanding the processes and mechanisms that allow nonhumans to think and behave. The techniques that are used and the species that are studied are diverse. The historical questions originally proposed by ethologist Nikolas Tinbergen as a framework for studying animal behavior remain at the core of the field. These questions are reviewed along with the domains and methods of animal cognition with a focus on concept learning, memory, and canine cognition. Finally, ideas on how a field rich in tradition and methodological strength should proceed in the future are presented.

Article

Influence of Anxiety on Cognitive Control Processes  

DeMond M. Grant and Evan J. White

Cognitive control is the ability to direct attention and cognitive resources toward achieving one’s goals. However, research indicates that anxiety biases multiple cognitive processes, including cognitive control. This occurs in part because anxiety leads to excessive processing of threatening stimuli at the expense of ongoing activities. This enhanced processing of threat interferes with several cognitive processes, which includes how individuals view and respond to their environment. Specifically, research indicates that anxious individuals devote their attention toward threat when considering both early, automatic processes and later, sustained attention. In addition, anxiety has negative effects on working memory, which involves the ability to hold and manipulate information in one’s consciousness. Anxiety has been found to decrease the resources necessary for effective working memory performance, as well as increase the likelihood of negative information entering working memory. Finally, anxiety is characterized by focusing excessive attention on mistakes, and there is also a reduction in the cognitive control resources necessary to correct behavior. Enhancing our knowledge of how anxiety affects cognitive control has broad implications for understanding the development of anxiety disorders, as well as emerging treatments for these conditions.

Article

Working Memory and Cognitive Aging  

Paul Verhaeghen

Working memory as a temporary buffer for cognitive processing is an essential part of the cognitive system. Its capacity and select aspects of its functioning are age sensitive, more so for spatial than verbal material. Assumed causes for this decline include a decline in cognitive resources (such as speed of processing), and/or a breakdown in basic control processes (resistance to interference, task coordination, memory updating, binding, and/or top-down control as inferred from neuroimaging data). Meta-analyses suggest that a decline in cognitive resources explains much more of the age-related variance in true working memory tasks than a breakdown in basic control processes, although the latter is highly implicated in tasks of passive storage. The age-related decline in working memory capacity has downstream effects on more complex aspects of cognition (episodic memory, spatial cognition, and reasoning ability). Working memory remains plastic in old age, and training in working memory and cognitive control processes yields near transfer effects, but little evidence for strong far transfer.

Article

Cognitive Development in Chimpanzees  

Tetsuro Matsuzawa

Cognitive development in chimpanzees has been illuminated through fieldwork and laboratory studies. Their life history reveals the importance of the mother–infant relationship. Females give birth at 5-year intervals on average, and the infants cling to their mothers in the first 3 months. Each chimpanzee community has its own unique cultural traditions, for example in tool use. How tools are used is passed across generations through social learning, in a process called education by master-apprenticeship. Laboratory studies in the early 21st century examined chimpanzees’ learning abilities even at the fetal stage. Chimpanzee and human cognition appear similar in both physical and social domains, and they follow the same developmental stages. However, there is a fundamental difference in the levels of complexity of hierarchical structure. Chimpanzees do not show the recursive and infinite levels that characterize human cognition. Chimpanzees are good at memorizing things at a glance but less skilled at representing things through imagination. The cognitive trade-off between working memory and language may explain the essential difference in cognitive development in the two species.