Friday, February 12, 2016

Coursera Dog Emotion and Cognition

Always exciting to keep on learning, and one of the keys to happiness. Initially I found the blandly repetitive and childishly excited tone of the lectures rather off-putting, and was irritated by book/dog personality testing advertising every lecture. Thanks to the discussion section comments showing that others had the same impression, and meeting a fellow Brit on the course, I maintained my motivation to actually get to the doggie parts from round about lectures 4 onwards, which was the true reason I joined. I whipped through to the end in an intense frenzy of study to free me up from the personae of Dr. Hare, who heroically and single-handedly barrels through the content with his unique labrador puppy style. I do like a lot of what he was trying to say though, and deflected the energy with multi-tasking on discussion boards as I watched videos (mental note to be more lenient of students who are "not listening" in f2fclasses in future)...Having passed, in retrospect I particularly liked the course ideas of cognition and intelligence as a spectrum of skills.

 Interestingly most doggie research shown on the course has the funding because it's about researching human evolution from apes through the medium of evolution of dogs from wolves, not for an interest in the animals themselves. Talk about human narcissism. 

Doing outside research on some of the ideas from the course was most stimulating, and I found an interesting selection of talks at 

CARTA: Domestication: Transformation of Wolf to Dog; Fox Domestication; Craniofacial Feminization.  One course discussion thread led me to a great TED talk on Bonobo culture by Susan Savage-Rumbau. I appreciate the way she talks about embracing another culture, rather than seeing bonobos as some kind of mirror tool to reflect on our evolutionary history. I notice she enthusiastically kisses her bonobo friend after playing music together...

That's why I like Patricia McConnell's books so much, because she helps you understand dog culture and cognition from the dog perspective. 
I respect my dogs as intelligent mindful animals who help create a unique family culture with me in my home, neither doggie nor ape, but just us family together :) I believe this leads us to grow individually, and also to grow together, so that you assimilate traits, learning so much from your dogs (and who would not wish to learn from such beauty, the gifted English setter, thinks a fond mama). In the same way I am some unique blend of Japanese and Brit by now, neither fox nor hare. A Brap, perhaps?

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