Intelligence in Animals and Machines (826G5)

15 credits, Level 7 (Masters)

Autumn teaching

The module will develop an understanding of what it means for an animal or a machine to behave intelligently, and how brain and behavioural systems are adapted to enable an animal to cope effectively within its environment.

We consider diverse aspects of intelligence including navigation and motor control, tool-use, language, memory and social skills.

We ask how these are related to one another and how they are matched to the particular needs of animals. We finally consider what we can learn about intelligence through computational modelling by examining the challenges faced by scientists trying to create artificial systems with the same behavioural capabilities.

As well as the reading list, three papers on current research issues will be given each week to be discussed in seminars. In addition, some papers which give you the flavour of the course are:

  • Shettleworth, S. Clever animals and killjoy explanations in comparative psychology
  • Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2010 Webb, B.
  • What does robotics offer animal behaviour? Animal Behaviour, 2000


33%: Lecture
15%: Practical (Laboratory)
52%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Report)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 150 hours of work. This breaks down into about 44 hours of contact time and about 106 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2024/25. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.