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Episode 265: Dr Michaela Hempen What is the “Mind”? Pt 2: The Great Divide

This is Part 2 of a conversation with Dr Michaela Hempen in which we consider the question: What is consciousness? What is the mind? And how do our answers effect how we assess animal welfare, or even should we bother to consider welfare issues for the animals under human care?

In this episode Michaela continues a discussion of different ways in which to categorize or define consciousness. “Phenomenal consciousness” along with sentience is defined. This form of consciousness is most relevant to a discussion of the ethics of animal care.

Self consciousness, while interesting, is less so. We discuss various tests which appeared to demonstrate self awareness or insight, but experiments done by behavior analysts showed that there were other explanations.

That brings us again to the great divide between the cognitive ethologists and the behaviorists. The question again is: “What is the mind?”. These two schools of thought bring us to very different answers.

Michaela argues that the discussions about animal consciousness are not relevant in the assessment of animal welfare. What you need to ask is: can they suffer? Can they enjoy? You only need to establish that which is contained in the term “sentience” to have a moral obligation of treating animals well.

So included in this episode is a discussion of the five freedoms model. But it is freedom from: freedom from hunger, etc. so this is all about avoiding unpleasant consequences. Welfare assessments are moving towards a more positive model.

We want to provide animals not only with the conditions that they need to survive, but we also want them to thrive and enjoy their lives. Which is, of course, why all this discussion of “what is the mind?” is relevant because what does that mean and how do you assess it?

This is the very complex topic that Michaela is helping us to understand better.

In this episode we begin with a discussion of sentience and animal welfare assessments.


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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