Mental capacities of fishes

Lynne U. Sneddon, Culum Brown

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Fish models are increasingly used in a wide variety of experimental contexts and their adoption is growing globally. This chapter reviews the evidence for sentience and cognitive abilities in fishes to highlight the growing empirical evidence of the mental capacities of fish. The definition of sentience is presented along with the scientific data pertinent to understanding what fishes are capable of, as well as higher order cognitive abilities such as numerical skills and the capacity for learning and memory. Being able to experience positive and negative welfare states such as pain, fear, and stress is highly debated for fishes; thus this chapter reviews the evidence for and arguments against conscious perception of pain and fear. If suffering and sentience are accepted in fishes, this has ethical implications for the way in which we use fish in scientific studies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNeuroethics and Nonhuman Animals
EditorsL. Syd M Johnson, Andrew Fenton, Adam Shriver
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
PublisherSpringer, Springer Nature
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9783030310110
ISBN (Print)9783030310103
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameAdvances in Neuroethics
ISSN (Print)2522-5677
ISSN (Electronic)2522-5685


  • Animal sentience
  • Cognition
  • Intelligence
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Pain
  • Welfare


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