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Gordon M. Burghardt

Gordon Burghardt is Alumni Distinguished Professor in Psychology and in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee. He is a coeditor of The Cognitive Animal (MIT Press, 2002), past president of the Animal Behavior Society, and editor of the Journal of Comparative Psychology.

Titles by This Author

Testing the Limits

In The Genesis of Animal Play, Gordon Burghardt examines the origins and evolution of play in humans and animals. He asks what play might mean in our understanding of evolution, the brain, behavioral organization, and psychology. Is play essential to development? Is it the driving force behind human and animal behavior? What is the proper place for the study of play in the cognitive, behavioral, and biological sciences?The engaging nature of play -- who does not enjoy watching a kitten attack a ball of yarn? -- has made it difficult to study. Some scholars have called play undefinable, nonexistent, or a mystery outside the realm of scientific analysis. Using the comparative perspectives of ethology and psychology, The Genesis of Animal Play goes further than other studies in reviewing the evidence of play throughout the animal kingdom, from human babies to animals not usually considered playful. Burghardt finds that although playfulness may have been essential to the origin of much that we consider distinctive in human (and mammalian) behavior, it only develops through a specific set of interactions among developmental, evolutionary, ecological, and physiological processes. Furthermore, play is not always beneficial or adaptive.Part I offers a detailed discussion of play in placental mammals (including children) and develops an integrative framework called surplus resource theory. The most fascinating and most controversial sections of the book, perhaps, are in the seven chapters in part II in which Burghardt presents evidence of playfulness in such unexpected groups of animals as kangaroos, birds, lizards, and "Fish That Leap, Juggle, and Tease." Burghardt concludes by considering the implications of the diversity of play for future research, and suggests that understanding the origin and development of play can shape our view of society and its accomplishments through history.

Titles by This Editor

Empirical and Theoretical Perspectives on Animal Cognition

The fifty-seven original essays in this book provide a comprehensive overview of the interdisciplinary field of animal cognition. The contributors include cognitive ethologists, behavioral ecologists, experimental and developmental psychologists, behaviorists, philosophers, neuroscientists, computer scientists and modelers, field biologists, and others. The diversity of approaches is both philosophical and methodological, with contributors demonstrating various degrees of acceptance or disdain for such terms as "consciousness" and varying degrees of concern for laboratory experimentation versus naturalistic research. In addition to primates, particularly the nonhuman great apes, the animals discussed include antelopes, bees, dogs, dolphins, earthworms, fish, hyenas, parrots, prairie dogs, rats, ravens, sea lions, snakes, spiders, and squirrels.

The topics include (but are not limited to) definitions of cognition, the role of anecdotes in the study of animal cognition, anthropomorphism, attention, perception, learning, memory, thinking, consciousness, intentionality, communication, planning, play, aggression, dominance, predation, recognition, assessment of self and others, social knowledge, empathy, conflict resolution, reproduction, parent-young interactions and caregiving, ecology, evolution, kin selection, and neuroethology.