Harmon-Jones et al. (2017) make a thought-provoking suggestion in their commentary on Zentall (2016): Overlooked biases among researchers on animal cognition might lead them to discount the traces of higher-order cognition in animals they study. We find the suggestion both philosophically important and worth further reflection for animal scientists. Harmon-Jones et al. point to two “cognitive dissonance” biases involving the clash between the common human resistance to viewing ourselves as animals/meat-eaters and how these biases might lead to discounting possible advanced cognitive performances in the animals studied. We show how these biases might appear in cognitive research generally and argue for further study on their effects.

Author Biography

Ellen Furlong is an assistant professor of psychology and director of the Comparative Cognition Lab at Illinois Wesleyan University. She studies animal cognition (mostly in dogs and nonhuman primates), focusing primarily on decision making. Website

Zachary Silver is a graduate student at Yale University where he investigates components of social decision making and social learning in nonhuman animals.

Jack Furlong is emeritus professor of philosophy at Transylvania University. The recipient of several teaching awards, he focused on implications of cognitive science of consciousness during most of his career but in the last two decades narrowed his interests to ethical implications of animal cognitive ethology.