Comparative cognition is the comparative study of the mechanisms and origins of cognition in various species, and is sometimes seen as more general than, or similar to, comparative psychology. From a biological point of view, work is being done on the brains of fruit flies that should yield techniques precise enough to allow an understanding of the workings of the human brain on a scale appreciative of individual groups of neurons rather than the more regional scale previously used. Similarly, gene activity in the human brain is better understood through examination of the brains of mice by the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Brain Science (see link below), yielding the freely available Allen Brain Atlas. This type of study is related to comparative cognition, but better classified as one of comparative genomics. Increasing emphasis in psychology and ethology on the biological aspects of perception and behavior is bridging the gap between genomics and behavioral analysis.
In order for scientists to better understand cognitive function across a broad range of species they can systematically compare cognitive abilities between closely and distantly related species Through this process they can determine what kinds of selection pressure has led to different cognitive abilities across a broad range of animals. For example, it has been hypothesized that there is convergent evolution of the higher cognitive functions of corvids and apes, possibly due to both being omnivorous, visual animals that live in social groups.
- Nature: Inside the Animal Mind
- Article on Empathy in Elephants
- APA article on Abstract Thinking in Baboons
- APA article on Short Term Memory in Honeybees
- University of Alberta's Comparative Cognition and Behavior Page
- Comparative Cognition Lab at Cambridge University
- The Comparative Cognition Society
- Allen Institute for Brain Science