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Episode 264: Dr Michaela Hempen - What is “The Mind?” Pt 1: A Historical Perspective

We’re beginning a three part series with Dr Michaela Hempen. The overall topic explores the question: What is the “Mind?” And how is that relevant to assessing animal welfare?

This conversation grew out of our previous discussion with Dr Joe Layng on public and private events. I suggest you listen to those episodes as an introduction to this discussion.

Why are these philosophical discussions relevant to horse training? Michaela begins with a historical perspective. What are the cultural influences that have shaped our attitude towards animals? Why do we have this cultural bias that has created a hierarchy of animals? Primates are high on the evolutionary scale, other animals are lower, and non-vertebrates are lower still. How does this influence our training and management choices?

Michaela is a scientific officer at the European Food Safety Authority. Part of her work focuses on animal welfare. She’s part of a team that is preparing reports for the European Commission, which, hopefully, will be the basis for updating the European animal welfare regulations.

To prepare for this project Michaela did considerable background reading. She wanted to understand the “great divide”. This refers to a philosophical split between behaviorism and cognitive ethology.

So join us as Michaela guides us through a historical look back on the evolution of these very different ways of viewing behavior.


Books / Papers

Ethology / Animal welfare

•   EFSA 2017 Animal Consciousness

•     Ian Duncan 2006 

     Duncan, I. J. (2006). The changing concept of animal sentience. Applied animal behaviour science, 100(1-2), 11-19.


Animal Cognition

•   Animal Cognition by Clive Wynne and Monique Udell

     Wynne, C. D., & Udell, M. A. (2020). Animal cognition: Evolution, behavior and cognition. Bloomsbury Publishing.


Behavior-analytic approach

•  Skinner: Behaviorism at Fifty

     Skinner, B. F. (1984). Behaviorism at fifty. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 7(4), 615-621.

• James Laird Feelings: The perception of self 

     Laird, J. D. (2007). Feelings: The perception of self. Oxford University Press.

• Howard Rachlin: Escape of the mind



•  Lisa Feldman Barrett:How emotions are made

•   Alva Noe: Out of our heads

• Uttal, W. R. (2001). The new phrenology: The limits of localizing cognitive processes in the brain. The MIT press.

Professional Development of Behavior Analysts in Europe: A Snapshot for 21 Countries


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