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Levels of Explanation in Behavioural Sciences

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Alexey Morgunov.

“When we seek to explain the rich behaviour of organisms in their natural environment we hit, whether we like it or not, on philosophical issues. Crucially, we need to take a view on what sort of statement would constitute an explanation for what we see. Most biologists agree that biological explanations admit many and varied levels of description and explanation, ranging from genetic and neural mechanisms to evolutionary, ecological, and developmental processes, and that this multiplicity of levels is particularly relevant for behaviour.

I will discuss these issues in the context of two research projects, one examining the interactions of brood parasitic birds and their hosts in South America and the other studying the use and manufacture of tools by crows in New Caledonia, illustrating both themes with videos of natural and experimental behavioural sequences.”

Professor Alex Kacelnik is Professor of Behavioural Ecology at Oxford University, where he works with the Behavioural Ecology Research Group in the Department of Zoology. He is interested in decision-making from the joint perspectives of evolutionary biology, ecology, comparative cognition, and economic theory.

This talk is part of the Trinity College Science Society (TCSS) series.

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