University of Connecticut

Events Calendar

Talk: Of mice and men: Building blocks in cognitive mapping

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
12:00pm – 1:00pm

Storrs Campus
Bousfield A101A

David Eilam, Department of Zoology, Tel-Aviv University, Israel

Abstract Three themes will be presented: (i) Similarities in the structure of spatial behavior in humans and other animals; (ii) A reminiscent impact of specific landmarks in test environments in animals and human behavior in specific urban environments; and (iii) How spatial behavior is affected by the social environment. Exploration is the process by which humans and other animals gather spatial information and construct some representation of unfamiliar environments, and then utilize this information for traveling in these environments. Both rodents and humans display a tendency to travel along the fixed paths and have typical behaviors in fixed locations, suggesting that these constitute an expression of similar underlying biobehavioral mechanisms. The physical environment shapes spatial behavior, and some principles of urban design in humans and a reminiscent impact of landmarks in test environments in animals are compared. Finally, spatial behavior is heavily affected by the social environment, and in the presence of conspecifics, individuals have to organize their spatial behavior in reference to the physical as well as to moving points of reference – the other individuals. When a group of unfamiliar rats is introduced together into an unfamiliar arena, they gradually form a group and settle together in a process similar to group formation in humans. Altogether, it is suggested that spatial behavior in animals could provide insights into the way that humans perceive and conceive social and physical environments, and that spatial cognition in different animals, including humans, rests on an evolutionary analogy (or even homology).


Etan Markus

Psychology Department (primary)

Control Panel