An examination of animal cognition

What is Animal Cognition? Animal cognition research examines the processes used to generate adaptive or flexible behavior in animal species. Much of the work on animal cognition is more appropriately described by the term comparative cognition, because the processes and capacities underlying behavior are compared between species Shettleworth

An examination of animal cognition

Morgan's Canon Coined by 19th-century British psychologist C. Lloyd MorganMorgan's Canon remains a fundamental precept of comparative animal psychology.

In its developed form, it states that: In other words, Morgan believed that anthropomorphic approaches to animal behavior were fallacious, and that people should only consider behaviour as, for example, rational, purposive or affectionate, if there is no other explanation in terms of the behaviours of more primitive life-forms to which we do not attribute those faculties.

From anecdote to laboratory[ edit ] The behavior of non-human animals has captivated human imagination from antiquity, and over the centuries many writers have speculated about the animal mind, or its absence.

Thorndike brought animal behavior into the laboratory for objective scrutiny. Thorndike's careful observations of the escape of cats, dogs, and chicks from puzzle boxes led him to conclude that what appears to the naive human observer to be intelligent behavior may be strictly attributable to simple associations.

According to Thorndike, using Morgan's Canon, the inference of animal reason, insight, or consciousness is unnecessary and misleading. Pavlov began his seminal studies of conditioned reflexes in dogs. Pavlov quickly abandoned attempts to infer canine mental processes; such attempts, he said, led only to disagreement and confusion.

He was, however, willing to propose unseen physiological processes that might explain his observations. Watson [11] set the direction of much research on animal behavior for more than half a century. During this time there was considerable progress in understanding simple associations; notably, around the differences between Thorndike's instrumental or operant conditioning and Pavlov's classical or Pavlovian conditioning were clarified, first by Miller and Kanorski, and then by B.

Probably the most explicit dismissal of the idea that mental processes control behavior was the radical behaviorism of Skinner. This view seeks to explain behavior, including "private events" like mental images, solely by reference to the environmental contingencies impinging on the human or animal.

Foundational Issues

Inference to processes not directly observable became acceptable and then commonplace. An important proponent of this shift in thinking was Donald O. Hebbwho argued that "mind" is simply a name for processes in the head that control complex behavior, and that it is both necessary and possible to infer those processes from behavior.

Methods[ edit ] The acceleration of research on animal cognition in the last 50 years or so has led to a rapid expansion in the variety of species studied and methods employed.

The remarkable behavior of large-brained animals such as primates and cetacea has claimed special attention, but all sorts of mammals large and small, birds, fish, ants, bees, and others have been brought into the laboratory or observed in carefully controlled field studies.

In the laboratory, animals push levers, pull strings, dig for food, swim in water mazes, or respond to images on computer screens in discrimination, attentionmemoryand categorization experiments. Studies often focus on the behavior of animals in their natural environments and discuss the putative function of the behavior for the propagation and survival of the species.

These developments reflect an increased cross-fertilization from related fields such as ethology and behavioral ecology. Also, contributions from behavioral neuroscience are beginning to clarify the physiological substrate of some inferred mental process. Some researchers have made effective use of a Piagetian methodology, taking tasks which human children are known to master at different stages of development, and investigating which of them can be performed by particular species.

Others have been inspired by concerns for animal welfare and the management of domestic species: This individual is using a stick to get food. Human and non-human animal cognition have much in common, and this is reflected in the research summarized below; most of the headings found here might also appear in an article on human cognition.

Of course, research in the two also differs in important respects. Notably, much research with humans either studies or involves language, and much research with animals is related directly or indirectly to behaviors important to survival in natural settings.

Following are summaries of some of the major areas of research in animal cognition. Perception[ edit ] Animals process information from eyes, ears, and other sensory organs to perceive the environment.

Animal Cognition. (eBook, ) []

Perceptual processes have been studied in many species, with results that are often similar to those in humans. Equally interesting are those perceptual processes that differ from, or go beyond those found in humans, such as echolocation in bats and dolphins, motion detection by skin receptors in fish, and extraordinary visual acuity, motion sensitivity and ability to see ultraviolet light in some birds.

Attention refers to mental processes that select relevant information, inhibit irrelevant information, and switch among these as the situation demands.

A large body of research has explored the way attention and expectation affect the behavior of non-human animals, and much of this work suggests that attention operates in birds, mammals and reptiles in much the same way that it does in humans. More enlightenment comes from experiments that allow the animal to choose from several alternatives.

For example, several studies have shown that performance is better on, for example, a color discrimination e. The reverse effect happens after training on forms. Thus, the earlier learning appears to affect which dimension, color or form, the animal will attend to.

In "blocking", for example, an animal is conditioned to respond to one stimulus "A" by pairing that stimulus with reward or punishment. After the animal responds consistently to A, a second stimulus "B" accompanies A on additional training trials.In s animals were viewed as quite simple systems.

It was difficult to determine whether animals think simply judging from their behavior. After a close observation, researchers came to the conclusions that animals, no matter whether in their natural habitat or in laboratory conditions. The study of animal cognition raises profound questions about the minds of animals and philosophy of mind itself.

Aristotle argued that humans are the only animal to laugh, but in recent experiments rats have also been shown to laugh.

An examination of animal cognition

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Animal Cognition.. [H L Roitblat; H S Terrace; T G Bever] -- First published in Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company. In fact, when considering animal cognition, researchers are very concerned about our tendency to anthropomorphize.

When we anthropomorphize, we think about animals having the same qualities as. However, the theory is shown to have fundamental flaws that inhibit its greatness, such as the use of animal research, the "black box" concept of the mind, and the denial of thought and mental processes.

What is Animal Cognition?

any examination of cognitive science would have to address the question with which it wrestles, namely the explanation of consciousness. The Cognitive Animal is the most complete and up-to-date collection of available information on the study of animal cognitive abilities.

It covers numerous species and areas of research and is written in a way that makes the information accessible to readers who are not specialists in the cognitive sciences.

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