Consciousness and cognition in plants

Miguel Segundo-Ortin, Paco Calvo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Unlike animal behavior, behavior in plants is traditionally assumed to be completely determined either genetically or environmentally. Under this assumption, plants are usually considered to be noncognitive organisms. This view nonetheless clashes with a growing body of empirical research that shows that many sophisticated cognitive capabilities traditionally assumed to be exclusive to animals are exhibited by plants too. Yet, if plants can be considered cognitive, even in a minimal sense, can they also be considered conscious? Some authors defend that the quest for plant consciousness is worth pursuing, under the premise that sentience can play a role in facilitating plant's sophisticated behavior. The goal of this article is not to provide a positive argument for plant cognition and consciousness, but to invite a constructive, empirically informed debate about it. After reviewing the empirical literature concerning plant cognition, we introduce the reader to the emerging field of plant neurobiology. Research on plant electrical and chemical signaling can help shed light into the biological bases for plant sentience. To conclude, we shall present a series of approaches to scientifically investigate plant consciousness. In sum, we invite the reader to consider the idea that if consciousness boils down to some form of biological adaptation, we should not exclude a priori the possibility that plants have evolved their own phenomenal experience of the world. Cognitive Biology > Evolutionary Roots of Cognition Philosophy > Consciousness Neuroscience > Cognition.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1578
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science
Issue number2
Early online date23 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • adaptive behavior
  • cognitive science
  • plant cognition
  • plant consciousness
  • plant neurobiology


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