Animal Cognition

Have you ever wondered what your dog is thinking? Or how dolphins learn to work together to catch fish? Or whether a chimpanzee could learn sign language? Welcome to the field of animal cognition: the study of animal minds, especially how they think and learn. Study not only what animals DO, but the mental processes behind their behavior.

Learn about different types of cognition that animals may have, such as social cognition (how they think about other animals), and physical cognition (how they think about the physical world). Explore ideas like language and communication, numbers and math, and cooperation. Study the minds of species across the animal kingdom, including great apes, marine mammals, dogs and wolves, and even spiders. Discover different ways to do animal cognition experiments ethically, and what it’s like to work with animals in various settings like the wild, accredited zoos and sanctuaries, and even in pet owners’ homes.

You will obtain plenty of facts about animal minds, but equally importantly, we will learn about HOW we know these facts. Understand how scientists are able to discover what animals are thinking, even though they can’t talk to us. In addition, go on field trips to observe a variety of exciting animals, get outside to collect observational data on the animals in our own “backyard” on campus, and have a chance to talk with different animal scientists to learn about their careers. Finally, you will get a chance to design your own animal cognition experiment! What are you curious to discover about animal minds?


How to Apply

Duke Pre-College uses a 2-step enrollment process: 

  1. First, students apply to the Pre-College program, indicating their course(s) of interest. Apply now.
  2. After they receive notification of their acceptance into Duke Pre-College, they enroll in the course(s) indicated in their Pre-College Application. 

Learn more on our How to Apply page.