Doing the Right Thing: An Interview with Stevan Harnad
Animal Rights/Vegan Activist Strategies Article from

FROM Marc Bekoff, Psychology Today / Animal Emotions
January 2015

I think the needless hurting and killing of sentient beings is the greatest moral shame of our species—the only species that has any choice in the matter, and the species that is doing all the needless hurting and killing, on a monstrous and still mounting scale.

What follows is an interview/dialogue with Dr. Stevan Harnad, the founder and former editor-in-chief of the highly influential journal called Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS) and current editor-in-chief of the new journal Animal Sentience.

Marc: You’re Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Sciences at University of Quebec in Montreal and Professor of Web Science at University of Southampton in the UK: What do you actually do?

Stevan Harnad: I do research on how the brain learns and communicates categories. Categorization is a very general cognitive capacity. I think it covers most of cognition. It just means doing the right thing with the right kind of thing: Eat what’s edible; avoid predators; and call a spade a “spade” (because most of the language is categorization too).

And how do you do research on how the brain learns and communicates categories? Do you study animals’ brains?

No. I study how humans do it, I try to model the mechanism generating that capacity computationally, and I test for clues and correlates with brain imagery (event-related potentials). Of these three methods, the third—observing and measuring brain events—is actually the least informative.



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