Jennifer Mather, What is in an octopus's mind?


Scientific discussions about the ‘mind’ of an octopus are empirically vacuous and should be confined to folk psychology. This form of labelling is unhelpful for science and should be replaced by specific mechanistic accounts of behavior and associated neural structures, which are amenable to rigorous scientific investigation. Mather provides a detailed review of octopus behavior, but rather than making unquantifiable assumptions about what orchestrates octopus behavior, efforts should focus on investigating cognitive mechanisms that can be measured. In this commentary, we outline two lines of research that include quantifiable methods to facilitate a more robust understanding of cephalopod behaviors and their cognitive underpinnings.

Author Biography

Alexandra Schnell, Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, specializes in quantifying complex cognition in non-human animals. Her current research focuses on comparing learning, self-control, memory and future planning abilities in corvids and cephalopods. Website

Giorgio Valloritgara, Professor of Neuroscience, University of Trento, Italy, studies space, number and object cognition, and brain asymmetry in comparative and evolutionary perspectives. Author of more than 250 scientific papers, he is recipient of the Geoffroy Saint Hilaire Prize for Ethology (France) and Doctor Rerum Naturalium Honoris Causa for outstanding achievement in psychobiology (Ruhr University, Germany). Website