He looks into minds of animals and kids

CorrespondentOctober 11, 2010 

Jason Goldman, 25, is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Southern California who studies developmental psychology. He writes The Thoughtful Animal ( http://scienceblogs.com/thoughtfulanimal ) and Child's Play ( http://scientopia.org/blogs/childsplay ). He tweets at @jgold85. Answers have been edited.

Q. One of your blogs covers developmental psychology in humans, and the other covers social cognition and behavior in animals. What are the connecting threads?

Child development and animal cognition are both fields of interest for me. I noticed at some point that there were very few blogs out there specifically covering child development, and when Scientopia was founded, I thought there was a perfect opportunity to introduce a new blog about the mental lives of children. A general theme that flows throughout many of the posts on The Thoughtful Animal is that we can understand a lot more about how we as humans think by investigating how animals think.

Q. How did you get interested in learning about social cognition in animals?

I'm really interested in the evolution of cognition and behavior, and animals are the best way to address that. Because of our relatively short gestation period, compared with other primates, human infants are born before their minds are really ready to engage with the world. Most animals, on the other hand, are cognitively prepared for the world when they're born, allowing us to better determine what is innate. Plus, animals are much better experiment participants than humans are!

Q. It seems like I've noticed a lot of dog cognition posts on The Thoughtful Animal this year. Why have dogs caught your attention?

I'm particularly interested in the way domestication changes or modifies social cognition. Part of my own research is on canine cognition, so I spend a lot of time reading the canine cognition literature. Also, another general theme of my blog is the relationship between humans and animals. I could write about cognition in polar bears and giant pandas [and I have], but I think readers are more interested in the animals that are parts of our daily lives.

Have an idea for a blog to feature? E-mail T. DeLene Beeland: scwriter.db@gmail.com

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