Comparative Communication and Cognition module (PY50439)

Cognition and communication in domestic cats and dogs

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Module code


This module introduces current theories and findings in Comparative (Animal) Cognition and Communication.

We will particularly focus on two popular pet species - domestic cats (Felis catus) and domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). In this module you will address real-life questions such as "does my cat understand what I say to her?" or "are dogs predominantly right-handed like humans?", using a comparative cognition approach.

What you will learn

In this module, you will:

  • examine critical issues in comparative cognition
  • gain an introduction to the evolution and domestication of cats and dogs
  • explore sensation, perception, and action in cats and dogs
  • consider cognition in cats and dogs
  • learn about both intra-species and inter-species communication in cats and dogs
  • discuss methodology in comparative cognition

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • address fundamental issues related to human communication and cognition within a comparative psychology framework
  • understand the contemporary approaches to cat and dog behaviour (e.g. perception, action, cognition, and communication)
  • comprehend the relevance of the research area in wider research fields (such as evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, language science, developmental psychology, etc.)
  • find, read, and evaluate relevant research within this area
  • express your knowledge in writing and discussion

Assignments / assessment

Typically, this module contains two assessments:

  • 2 written pieces of coursework (50% each)

Teaching methods / timetable

This module typically consists of 2-hour weekly sessions throughout one semester. Each session normally consists of a combination of different parts, including:

  • Mini lecture
  • Student presentation + discussion
  • Video watching + discussion

Overall, our focus is on interactive student-led discussion in a small-class learning environment.

Learning materials will be provided through a variety of sources which are made readily available to students, e.g. lecture notes, a list of suggested readings from University of Dundee library resources, class videos.


This module is available on following courses: