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Contact Details:

Dr Pamela Lyon
ARC Postdoctoral Fellow
708 Napier Building
North Terrace Campus

Email: Pamela Lyon
Phone: +61 8 8303 4920
Fax: +61 8 8303 4341

ARC Project

Foundations for a Cognitive Biology (DP0880559) is a three-year, collaborative project funded by the Australian Research Council formally involving philosophers and scientists at five institutions on three continents. (Informally, the number is higher.) The aim of the project is to take the first steps toward developing a conceptual toolkit for describing cognitive phenomena across diverse kinds of living things - for example, bacteria, nematodes, flies, rodents, apes and humans.


Cognitive research currently is carried out in many and various, highly specialized 'silos' in multiple disciplines that rarely connect. Meanwhile, molecular and behavioural evidence increasingly suggests that many cognitive mechanisms are highly conserved across phyla. It is hoped that a theoretically well-grounded toolkit of basic cognitive concepts will facilitate the use and discussion of research carried out in different fields to increase understanding of foundational issues: what cognition is, what it does and how it works.

What it involves

  • Decomposition into basic ‘primitives’ of concepts currently in use in cognitive, affective and motivational research. Because theoretical constructs mean nothing in isolation, these will be developed within a biologically grounded theoretical framework.
  • Analysis of how these concepts currently are used in the experimental literature on selected model organisms.
  • Preparation of a series of discussion papers.
  • An invitation-only workshop (17-19 July 2009).
  • Preparation of a series of articles and/or essays.
  • A public lecture series (2009 and 2010).