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Animal Cognition (2024-2025)


Admission requirements

BSc in biology or related disciplines.


The study of Animal Cognition is a fast growing discipline in the cognitive sciences. With the increased attention and improved experimental designs, previously overlooked and unexpected cognitive abilities of animals are discovered, some leading to spectacular headlines and claims in the media. The aims of this seminar are to provide students with sufficient knowledge on both to the information processing abilities of animals as well as experimental approaches in contemporary animal cognition research to enable them to critically evaluate primary, secondary and popular literature in animal cognition research. We will cover controversial issues of recent years, like whether animals can count, are able of mental time travelling (‘planning for the future’) or whether they have a theory of mind.

Course objectives

After completion of this course, students can:

  • recall and explain the content of the course book and of selected contemporary primary literature in the field of animal cognition (as indicated by the topics in the reading list).

  • summarise, present and discuss primary research articles in animal cognition.

  • critically evaluate experimental designs in animal cognition research.

  • evaluate and integrate contemporary findings and theories concerning animal cognition.

  • appraise and reason different viewpoints of key debates within the study of animal cognition.


You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

For each meeting, participants will be asked to read and prepare one chapter from the book or review article so that they can actively participate during discussions and also chair these general discussions. In addition, per session there will be two student presentations on selected primary literature pertaining to the theme of the week. Each participant is expected to prepare one oral presentation plus a written summary, and to act once as a chairperson during a presentation and ensuing discussion of another person.

Assessment method

Participants will be evaluated based on the quality of their presentation and the summary, their performance as a chairperson, and the quality and quantity of their contribution to discussion sessions.

The final grade consists of the following partical grades:

  • Presentation + summary 40%

  • Chairing student presentation + session plan 15%

  • Chairing session 15%

  • Discussion contributions 30%

Minimum grade:
Courses require a minimum, unrounded 5.5 grade to complete.

If a course has 2 or more written partial exams, the minimum grade only applies to the weighted average of the exams.
For partial grades from components other than exams (e.g. practicals, seminars, writing assignments), the bottom grade does apply to the individual components.

Please refer to the Student Charter for an overview of regulations.

Reading list

Obligatory reading:


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Coordinators: Dr. K. Riebel and Dr. M.J. Spierings



This course is designed for a maximum of 24 participants. Upon over-registration biology master students will be given priority. Participation in the pre-meeting is obligatory. Failure to appear and commit to a date for a presentation during the pre-meeting will vacate the participant’s place for students from the waiting list.