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Insider Insights: Michael J. Beran

Now that you've better understood animal contribution on the mechanisms of learning, let's hear from an expert in the field.
© University of Padova

Now that you’ve better understood animal contribution on the mechanisms of learning, let’s hear from an expert in the field.

Michael Beran is a professor of psychology and the co-director of the Language Research Center at Georgia State University. He has worked with bears, rhesus monkeys, chimpanzees, orangutans, and more, to better unravel the mechanisms of learning and metacognition.

  • How much can we learn from animal errors in cognitive tasks. How informative (or pertinent? relevant?) for scientists is the fallibility of animals and humans?

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

  • Some animals seem to be aware of either knowing or not knowing something—which we typically describe as ‘metacognition’. You also studied this phenomenon in monkeys. Can you tell us the current knowledge in this field. How important is animal metacognition in understanding human metacognition?

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

  • Behaviorism operates under the assumption that animals will either increase or decrease their behaviour if we either add pleasant or take away noxious stimuli. In this sense, animal behaviour could simply a response to environmental stimuli. How relevant/solid/accurate/important is this approach today (not sure what you meant by “how much do we need to keep this approach)?

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

  • Based on your point of view, what are the studies through the decades on non-human primates that have the greatest influence on psychological sciences?

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

  • You work at the Language Research Center in Atlanta, one of the most important centers in the world for the study of symbolic language in apes. Can you tell us the main achievements of this field? How did you teach chimps to use lexigrams?

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

  • The last question is the one you would like to ask yourself. Imagine that you will be interviewed for a chapter on animal models in learning. This chapter deals with the impact of animals in our knowledge on learning and memory (e.g., operant conditioning works, neurobiology of learning (like Aplysia study), etc). Based on your experience, which kind of question would you like to ask yourself in a chapter such as this ? The interview is useful to make students curious, so even anecdotal evidence is more than welcome!

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

© University of Padova
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Research Methods in Psychology: Using Animal Models to Understand Human Behaviour

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