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The Role of Values in Animal Cognition Research

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact John O'Toole.

Dr Marta Halina, Lecturer in Philosophy of Psychology and Cognitive Science, will share her thoughts in this fascinating research area.

The role of social and ethical values in accepting scientific hypotheses has long been recognized. As Rudner (1953) observes, “how sure we need to be before we accept a hypothesis will depend on how serious a mistake would be”. Values play a role whenever the hypothesis under consideration has practical or ethical consequences. Despite this, discussions aimed at evaluating scientific evidence often fail to take these values into account. This is particularly true in comparative psychology, which is surprising, given the vast implications that accepting or rejecting hypotheses in this field might have – hypotheses such as whether fish feel pain or chimpanzees have self-awareness. In this talk, I argue for the importance of social and ethical values in evaluating claims about animal cognition. Taking these values into account reveals that the consequences of false negatives are worse than traditionally conceived.

Dr Halina’s recent publications include ‘There Is No Special Problem of Mindreading in Nonhuman Animals’, and ‘What Apes Know About Seeing’.

This talk is part of the SCI Cambridge Science Talks series.

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