Re: Scientists think that animals think:

From: Philip Jonkers (
Date: Tue Mar 19 2002 - 20:54:12 GMT

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    Subject: Re: Scientists think that animals think:
    Date: Tue, 19 Mar 2002 11:54:12 -0900
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    The conception that we humans exclusively have access to the highest of
    congnitive functions is due to
    vestigial anthropocentric thinking mainly caused by religious sentiments I
    think. As with any religious matter
    anthropocentric conceptions deserve no true place in science other than,
    perhaps, itself be the subject
    of scientific investigation. It comes as no surprise to me that animals in
    fact, have notions about themselves
    their social lives and make anticipations about their environment albeit
    necessarily crude and primitive of course.
    We evolved from animals so I have no problems accepting that we also
    inherited and subsequently
    further evolved into high sophistication a large part of the high cognitive
    functions we now have.

    What's with this stuff about Dutch being boring.... :'-(


    > Scientists think that animals think:
    > But what exactly do they think about?
    > By William J. Cromie
    > Gazette Staff
    > Do animals think?
    > "Of course they do," answers Marc Hauser, a Harvard professor of
    > psychology. "How could they not think and manage to survive in
    > the world?"
    > Hauser has been studying animal cognition since 1980, when a
    > female spider monkey reached through the bars of her cage at
    > Florida's Monkey Jungle and gave him a hug. He was 19 years old
    > at the time. "She looked into my eyes and cooed several times,"
    > he remembers. "The experience got me to thinking about what
    > animals are thinking and how to find out."
    > He now believes that animals conceive the world in ways similar
    > to humans, especially species like chimpanzees who live a rich
    > social life. His field and laboratory experiments suggest that
    > humans got their mechanisms for perception from animals. "Those
    > mechanisms came free, courtesy of evolution," he says.
    > Hauser and his colleagues are trying to determine what sorts of
    > thinking processes are unique to humans and what processes we
    > share with animals. The one that comes immediately to mind is
    > language.
    > "Animals have interesting thoughts, but the only way they can
    > convey them is by grunts, shrieks, and other vocalizations, and
    > by gestures," Hauser points out. "When humans evolved speech,
    > they liberated the kinds of thoughts nonhumans have. Feedback
    > between language and thinking then boosted human self-awareness
    > and other cognitive functions."
    > Monkeys get the rhythms
    > Clever experiments with monkeys and human infants show that they
    > share thinking processes once thought to be in the minds of
    > humans alone. Babies only 3-4 days old can tell the difference
    > between two languages such as Dutch and Japanese. When the
    > infants hear someone saying sentences in Dutch, they express
    > their interest by sucking rapidly on the nipples of pacifiers.
    > After a while they get bored with the Dutch talk and stop
    > sucking enthusiastically. If someone then starts speaking
    > Japanese, they will show increased interest by upping their
    > sucking rate.
    > The babies don't know what the speakers are talking about, of
    > course, but they can discriminate between languages by the
    > change in rhythms. They don't respond to languages with similar
    > rhythms, such as Dutch and English or French and Spanish. Also,
    > if you play the same sentences backward, the infants fail to
    > react. "One explanation for this behavior is that they
    > intuitively know that no human vocal tract can produce such
    > sounds," Hauser explains.
    > If this is true, monkeys should not be able to make the same
    > distinctions because they don't know what rhythms and sounds
    > human vocal tracts can produce. But cotton-top tamarin monkeys
    > easily distinguish between Dutch and Japanese. They look at a
    > speaker broadcasting sentences of Dutch, look away when they're
    > bored, then look back when someone starts speaking Japanese. And
    > they cannot make that distinction when the sentences are spoken
    > backward.
    > "The monkeys have the same perceptual abilities as us," Hauser
    > concludes. "That means such perception did not evolve with human
    > speech; it existed before humans and speech evolved."
    > Babies do statistics
    > One big mystery about human cognition is how babies decide when
    > one word ends and another begins when they listen to an adult's
    > stream of speech. Experiments done in 1996 revealed that kids as
    > young as 8 months are capable of performing a kind of
    > statistical analysis that seems pretty amazing.
    > The babies listen to a continuous stream of consonants and
    > vowels, such as "dapikutilado...." Some combinations always
    > cluster together, like "da-pi-ku," while others do not. If
    > infants are aware of statistically familiar clusters, they show
    > little interest when they hear them. But when they hear
    > something like "da-ku-pi," they know something is unfamiliar.
    > They look toward the sounds of unfamiliar triplets longer than
    > they look in the direction of those that are relatively familiar.
    > The youngsters don't know it, but that's how they will get the
    > hang of separating words in a stream of speech. Linguists call
    > this "computing transitional probabilities." It sounds too
    > complicated for an 8-month-old, much less for a monkey. However,
    > Hauser and his two collaborators, Elissa Newport and Richard
    > Aslin, showed that cotton-top tamarins can do the same thing.
    > Perceptual and at least some computation mechanisms, therefore,
    > lived in the brains of animals long before humans came along,
    > even ancient humans who didn't do much more than grunt and
    > bellow. "Some people wouldn't call these abilities 'thinking,'"
    > Hauser admits. "That's fine with me. But it begs the question,
    > 'What do you mean by thinking?'"
    > How high can animals count
    > Additional tests by Hauser and other researchers reveal that
    > monkeys can count up to four. The human ability to count to
    > higher numbers apparently came only after we evolved language
    > and developed words to describe quantities like 25 and 1,000.
    > Some human cultures still don't use large numbers. The Hadza
    > people, hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, for example, have words
    > only for "one," "two," and "three"; anything more is "many."
    > They are aware that a picture with 30 dots displays a larger
    > number than one with 20 dots (as are monkeys), but they have no
    > words for the precise numbers of dots.
    > The bottleneck between human and nonhuman thinking involves not
    > just words, but the ability to recombine words in an endless
    > variety of new meanings. That appears to be a unique human
    > capability. Chimpanzees have a rich social and conceptual life,
    > Hauser maintains, but they can't discuss it with each other.
    > The next step in determining how much thinking ability humans
    > share with other animals will involve scanning the brains of
    > both while they do the same cognitive tasks. Harvard
    > psychologists have already begun to do this in a collaboration
    > with researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical
    > School in Worcester and the Max Planck Institute in Germany.
    > Monkeys may exhibit the same kind of intellectual behavior as
    > humans, but do they both use the same areas of the brain?
    > "We have a great deal of data that show what areas of the brain
    > are activated when humans respond to various situations," Hauser
    > points out. "Now we will determine if monkeys and other animals
    > utilize the same brain circuits."
    > So far, the monkeys are adapting well to experiments at the
    > University of Massachusetts. They move into harnesses in brain
    > scanning instruments, such as MRI machines, without difficulty.
    > Measurements of their stress levels show that after five days of
    > training, marmoset monkeys feel as comfortable as they do in
    > their home cages with their own social group.
    > For some people, such research will not provide a satisfactory
    > answer to the question: Do animals really think? These people
    > define thinking as having a sense of self, beliefs that go
    > beyond raw perceptions, emotions such as empathy, and the
    > ability to imagine a situation remote in time and place and
    > predict an outcome.
    > "Those capabilities cannot be illuminated by brain scanning,"
    > Hauser admits. "But experiments using other techniques are
    > beginning to shed light on what kinds of perceptual and
    > computation skills animals bring to analyzing the world, and in
    > what ways these skills are different from our own."
    > I think, therefore I am. - Descartes
    > For more information about nonhuman thinking, see Hauser's book
    > "Wild Minds," (Henry Holt, 2000). Hauser will debate
    > distinguished linguist Noam Chomsky on March 30 at Harvard at a
    > conference sponsored by the Language Evolution Society.
    > ===============================================================
    > This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    > For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
    > see:

    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
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