CIE Seminar Series 2017 – The mind of plants: thinking the unthinkable

SPEAKER: Assoc. Prof. Monica Gagliano, Centre for Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Western Australia, WA

DATE: Friday, 23rd June 2017
LOCATION: Geelong Campus at Waurn Ponds – room ka4.207
TIME: 1:30pm
Seminar will also be video linked to the following campuses: Melbourne Campus at Burwood – room T3.22; and Warrnambool Campus – room J2.22

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ABSTRACT: Across all species, individuals thrive in complex ecological systems, which they rarely have complete knowledge of. To cope with this uncertainty and still make good choices while avoiding costly errors, organisms have developed the ability to exploit key features associated with their environment.

That through experience, humans and other animals are quick at learning to associate specific cues with particular places, events and circumstances has long been known; the idea that plants are also capable of learning by association had never been proven until now.

Here I comment on the recent paper that experimentally demonstrated associative learning in plants, thus qualifying them as proper subjects of cognitive research. Additionally, I make the point that the current fundamental premise in cognitive science, that we must understand the precise neural underpinning of a given cognitive feature in order to understand the evolution of cognition and behavior, needs to be re-imagined.

BIO: Monica Gagliano is a research associate professor of evolutionary ecology, an adjunct senior research fellow at the University of Western Australia and a former research fellow of the Australian Research Council.

She is the author of numerous scientific articles in the fields of animal and plant behavioral and evolutionary ecology and is co-editor of The Green Thread: Dialogues with the Vegetal World (Lexington, 2015) and The Language of Plants (Minnesota University Press, 2017).

She has pioneered the new research field of plant bioacoustics and extended the concept of cognition to plants, reigniting the discourse on plant subjectivity and ethical standing.

Appointments with guest speaker may be made via Jessica Hodgson.