Colin Gordon Beer

Professor Emeritus
Rutgers University, Psychology Department
101 Warren Street, Newark, NJ 07102
Smith Hall Room 354
Office: (973) 353-5440 x3957
Fax: (973)353-1171
Research Interests
Communication behavior, social development, and breeding biology of gulls. In earlier work on Laughing Gulls playback experiments in the field and indoors have revealed individual recognition by ear to be an important component of social interaction during the breeding season in this species. In pairs each bird can distinguish the long-calls of its mate from those of near neighbors and gulls for farther afield, and there is a little evidence that the calls of neighbors can be told from those of strangers.
Spectrographic analysis of Laughing Gull calls has revealed syntactic structure comparable to the phoneme/morpheme distinction in language. Also an amplitude modulation feature at the start of the long-call specifies whether a call is directed at a parent's chicks or at adult gulls. Comparable features are to be sought in recordings of the calls of European Black-headed Gulls and New Zealand Black-billed and Red-billed Gulls.
Conceptual and historical issues in the study of animal behavior. I am currently trying to work out arguments concerning such issues as mental representation, intentionalilty, concept formation, self-awareness, and linguistic capacity with respect to animal behavior. Description of behavior in terms that occupy a network of relations to other concepts in discourse about humans raises questions about how much of such networks carry over when the terms are used of animal behavior. Such concerns should help to enlarge cognitive ethology's contribution to cognitive science.
Selected Publications
Beer, Colin with Immelmann, Klaus (1989). A Dictionary of Ethology. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Beer, Colin (1991). From folk psychology to cognitive ethology. In C.A. Ristau (ed.), Cognitive Ethology- The Monds of Other Animals, Essays in Honor of Donald Griffin. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum.
Beer Colin (1992). Conceptual issues in cognitive ethology. Advances in the Study of Behavior 21,69-109.
Beer, Colin (1996). Trial and error in the evolution of cognition. Behavioral Processes 35,215-224.
Beer, Colin (1997). Expressions of mind in animal behavior. In R.W. Mitchell, N.S. Thompson, and H. L. Miles (eds.) Anthropomorphism, Anecdotes, and Animals. Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, pp. 198-209.