Fullerton Public Library hosts CSUF professor’s talk on animal cognition

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(Cassandra Hearn / Daily Titan)

The Fullerton Public Library hosted a talk titled “Animal Minds: What Are They Thinking?” Wednesday night looking at non-human cognitive research.

“(The lecture) is about what animals are thinking, or at least what their behavior tells us about what they’re thinking,” said Jessie Peissig, a professor for the department of psychology at CSUF.

Peissig, who studies comparative cognition, discussed animal tool use, communication and personalities in her lecture.

“We can actually use the strengths and talents of other species to help us develop new things that can help humans,” she said.

Peissig teaches a comparative animal behavior class as well as an accompanying lab course. Currently, she is working on setting up an octopus lab to study cognition in invertebrate animals.

“Their behavior shows that they’re much more like us than they are different,” Peissig said.

She used videos of animal behavior to accompany her lecture. One video showed a crow using a block as a tool to retrieve a seed from water. Another video showed a macaque monkey displaying a negative reaction after being given a cucumber when the macaque beside him was given a grape.

“(I’m here) to learn about animals and their behavior and how they think,” said attendee Janet Arvizu. “I’ve always been fascinated with animals.”

Peissig concluded her lecture by sharing with the audience the latest in comparative cognition research: Chinese scientists are studying butterfly wings to design better solar energy, as a butterfly’s wings have the ability to keep warm on cold mornings.

The lecture was a part of Fullerton Public Library’s Fullerton Reads program, which has dedicated the month of October to animals.

“It’s something to bring people to the library to show what we have to offer on that subject,” said Kent Baecker, a librarian with the Adult Services department. “Hopefully they find other programs they like here as well.”

He said the library will also hold movie nights and pet photo contests.

Fullerton Reads, which began in 2007, is a program geared toward involving the community with the library by dedicating a book to each month. This is the first time a month has been dedicated to one subject and not a book, said library director Judy Booth in her director’s report.

“The first goal is to introduce a new subject to patrons that they might not normally get on a day-to-day basis,” Baecker said. “Animals are something everyone can enjoy, regardless of your beliefs or political leanings.”

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