VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies
3. Animal Intelligence and Sociality
Pepperberg, Irene. The Alex Studies. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000. A book length report on sophisticated, double blind research over many years with a grey parrot able to learn and verbalize so that his extensive cognitive abilities could be evaluated and quantified.
Perruchet, Pierre and Annie Vinter. Linking Learning and Consciousness: The Self-Organizing Consciousness Model. Cleeremans, Axel, ed. The Unity of Consciousness. Cleeremans, Axel, ed. The Unity of Consciousness. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. On the hypothesis that the evolution of informed sentience is most of all a dynamic “learning” experience.
Pfeffer, Sarah and Harald Wolf. Anthropod Spatial Cognition. Animal Cognition. 23/11, 2020. Ulm University neurobiologists introduce a special issue about the extraordinary acute capacities of these invertebrates whose appropriate sophistication seems to be far beyond their rudimentary neural facility.
Arthropod insects and crustaceans show a diverse repertoire of cognitive feats. Despite their smaller brains, the cognitive abilities of arthropods are comparable to, or may even exceed, those of some vertebrates. Miniature brains often provide parsimonious but smart solutions for complex behaviours or ecologically relevant problems. Arthropod spatial cognition studies long concentrated on the honeybee, However, myriad species worldwide, have a broad diversity of lifestyles, ecology, and cognitive abilities. This special issue compiles four review articles and ten original research reports from a spectrum of arthropod species. They range from the well-studied hymenopterans, and ants in particular, to chelicerates and crustaceans. (Abstract excerpt)
Pinker, Steven. How the Mind Works. New York: Norton, 1997. By means of coordinating an array of innate, dedicated, information processing modules, which are vestiges from hunter-gatherer days.
The mind is a system of organs of computation, designed by natural selection to solve the kinds of problems our ancestors faced in their foraging way of life….The mind is organized into modules or mental organs, each with a specialized design that makes it expert in one area of interaction with the world. (21)
Plotnik, Jousha and Nicola Clayton. Convergent Cognitive Evolution across Animal Taxa: Comparisons of Chimpanzees, Corvids, and Elephants. Eric Margolis and Stephen Laurence, eds. The Conceptual Mind. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2015. This large edition considers in dedicated sections the nature of knowledge representations across animal, cerebral, evolutionary, perceptive, language, cultural, formative, contextual, and individual domains. Cambridge University psychologists can then confirm, after some decades of diverse field and laboratory research, that human-like personal and communal intelligence and behavior does extend throughout the creaturely kingdoms and deeply into life’s evolution. A chapter by Anna Wierzbicka on common languages is reviewed separately.
Reiss, Diana and Lori Marino. Mirror Self-Recognition in the Bottlenose Dolphin. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 98/5937, 2001. Intelligent cetaceans are found to have the ability to recognize themselves in a mirror, an achievement which is seen as an example of how evolution converges on similar cognitive capacities in a much different kingdom from human beings.
Rendell, Luke and Hal Whitehead. Culture in Whales and Dolphins. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 24/2, 2001. A research report about the realization that language and cultural behavior is not the sole province of humans but occurs throughout the animal kingdom, in this case with cetaceans.
Reznikova, Zhanna. Animal Intelligence: From Individual to Social Cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Zhanna Reznikova is a behavioural ecologist and cognitive ethologist, Head of the Department of Comparative Psychology, Novosibirsk State University, Siberia, and one of the most experienced field, laboratory, and theoretical researcher in a non-Western setting. As a result, the large volume offers extensive practice and insights into how to study and appreciate species-specific, information-based, creaturely learning and cognition across the Metazoan kingdom from insects to primates.
Rowlands, Mark. Can Animals Be Persons? New York: Oxford University Press, 2019. The University of Miami philosopher provides a long argument that after decades of study, and common knowledge, our creaturely co-inhabitants of all kinds are indeed as integrally personal, aware, sensitive, communicative and social as our human selves.
Shanker, Stuart and Barbara King. The Emergence of a New Paradigm in Ape Language Research. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 25/2, 2002. In place of the old encode and send, receive and decode approach, a better model of communication is to perceive how an aggregate pattern emerges during the mutual co-action between entities, whether cells, mammals, apes or humans. An example is the field of primate discourse which is seen as a dance activity in terms of engagement and disengagement, synchrony and discord. In the peer review sections, Alan Fogel, et al agree and see the paper as a contribution to the growing sense of a “fundamental relatedness at the heart of the universe.” (623) Tim Ingold likewise finds it to support new understandings in his field of social anthropology. The authors conclude:
The shift from the transmission metaphor to a dance metaphor represents, we believe, a fundamental shift in communications theory from an information-processing to a dynamic systems paradigm…..The shift…represents an important transformation…from looking at communication as an encryption process, to seeing communication as a co-regulated activity. (607)
Shettleworth, Sara. Cognition, Evolution and Behavior. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. A fully revised second edition of the University of Toronto psychologist’s 1998 volume of the same title. Its three main parts are: Fundamental Mechanisms (perception, concepts, memory), Physical Cognition (space, time, numeration), and Social Cognition (intelligence, learning, communication). A summary article The Evolution of Comparative Cognition appears in the journal Behavioural Processes (80/2, 2007). I was fortunate to hear Dr. Shettleworth speak on November 18, 2009 at the University of Massachusetts on her work, new book, and past decades of animal intelligence research. From incipient founders such as Nikolas Tinbergen and B. F. Skinner, and a few primate, pigeon or mouse subjects, within a dismissive mindset, the field has reinvented itself to admit a wide repertoire of cerebral capabilities spread across Metazoan kingdoms to an extent that, as we indeed know, it is difficult not to “anthropomorphize” our companion creatures.
Siebert, Charles. The Animal Self. New York Times Sunday Magazine. January 22, 2006. As every pet owner of any kind knows, animals have complex, interactive personalities. This extensive article reports how such creaturely psychologies have at last become an academic field of study and quantification. Initiated much by Samuel Gosling at the University of Texas at Austin, and other colleagues nationwide, the recognition of human-like qualities such as aggression, deception or shyness are being noted from higher mammals to stickleback fish and even water strider insects. The same personality tests developed for humans are found to work throughout the animal kingdom. By these admissions and lights, we add, might life’s evolution be seen as the embryonic emergence of a single, cosmic personal self in its myriad forms trying to reach the composite human phenomenon and its own recognition?