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VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies

3. Animal Intelligence and Sociality

Skipper, Robert. Perspectives on the Animal Mind. Biology and Philosophy. 19/4, 2004. An Introduction for a special issue on how the field of cognitive ethology lately affirms Charles Darwin’s thesis of a continuity between animal and human intelligence and consciousness. Major players such as Mark Bekoff, Colin Allen, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and Paul Griffiths provide cogent articles.

Smith, J. David, et al. Animal Metacognition: A Tale of Two Comparative Psychologies. Journal of Comparative Psychology. Online August, 2013. “Metacognition” is a big word for the ability of an individual to be aware of their own thought processes, i.e., knowing that they are learning. In this paper, Smith, SUNY Buffalo, with Justin Couchman, Fredonia State University, and Michael Beran, Georgia State University, pull together a decade of research findings to contend that non-human creatures do indeed possess “functional analogs” of metacognitive faculties. This is achieved by setting aside prior “associative” theories which have slighted or denied such abilities. As a consequence a “phylogenetic map” by degree can be drawn through the Metazoan scale, e.g., “information seeking by pigeons.” See also the volume Foundations of Metacognition,(Oxford, 2012), Michael Beran, et al, eds., for more on its evolutionary advent and manifestation.

A growing literature considers whether animals have capacities that are akin to human metacognition (i.e., humans' capacity to monitor their states of uncertainty and knowing). Comparative psychologists have approached this question by testing a dolphin, pigeons, rats, monkeys, and apes using perception, memory, and food-concealment paradigms. As part of this consideration, some associative modelers have attempted to describe animals' “metacognitive” performances in low-level, associative terms—an important goal if achievable. The authors summarize the empirical and theoretical situation regarding these associative descriptions. The associative descriptions in the animal-metacognition literature fail to encompass important phenomena. The sharp focus on abstract, mathematical associative models creates serious interpretative problems. The authors compare these failed associative descriptions with an alternative theoretical approach within contemporary comparative psychology. The alternative approach has the potential to strengthen comparative psychology as an empirical science and integrate it more fully within the mainstream of experimental psychology and cognitive science. (Abstract)

Sternberg, Robert and James Kaufman, eds. The Evolution of Intelligence. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 2002. A spectrum of authors explore seven geometric, computational, biological, epistemological, anthropological, sociological, and system metaphors for the evolved properties of mental acumen.

Suddendorf, Thomas. The Rise of the Metamind. Michael Corballis and Stephen Lea, eds. The Descent of Mind. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. A natural history of the representational mind from birds to primates and collective human thought. The book presents current work on animal and human intelligence.

From a state of no mind, a mind capable of reasoning cogito ergo sum evolved in phylogeny, and the same metamorphosis also occurs in the development of an individual human. (221)

Suddendorf, Thomas and Andrew Whiten. Mental Evolution and Development. Psychological Bulletin. 127/5, 2001. How new research about a range of representational capacities in great apes and other animals infers an evolutionary progression of environmental and behavioral knowledge. By this evidence a central trajectory is being defined of increased cognitive awareness reaching to humankind.

Tannenbaum, Arnold. The Sense of Consciousness. Journal of Theoretical Biology. 211/4, 2001. As animal sense organs evolve and merge into a distinct, complex neural system, an emergent, informed awareness results.

Thornton, Alex, et al. Animal Minds: From Computation to Evolution. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 367/2670, 2012. With Nicola Clayton and Uri Grodzinski, University of Cambridge experimental psychologists introduce this special issue to entertain the growing approach of “comparative cognition” from primates and corvid birds to invertebrate insects, which generas keep getting smarter and more like us all the time. Typical articles are Cognition in Insects by Barbara Webb, Simple Minds: A Qualified Defense of Associative Learning by Cecilia Heyes, and Murray Shanahan’s The Brain’s Connective Core and its Role in Animal Cognition. And in regard, life’s long evolutionary ascent is looking more like a single cerebral edification of a self-discovering cosmic genesis.

Trewavas, Anthony. Green Plants as Intelligent Organisms. Trends in Plant Science. 10/9, 2005. Although the section is about an increasing sentience and cognition in fauna, this article finds that common definitions of intelligence such as problem solving and future prediction, along with similar cellular neural networks, can equally apply to flora, which seem somewhat akin to social insects.

Vonk, Jennifer and Todd Shackelford, eds. Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior. International: Springer, 2019. A forthcoming edition which could bookend this field from Donald Griffin’s 1992 entry (our section image) when creatures with minds of their own were denied, to a deeply evident continuity from human acumen and personality which now spans the whole range of vertebrate and onto invertebrate species.

This encyclopedia, reflecting one of the fastest growing fields in evolutionary psychology, is a comprehensive examination of the key areas in animal cognition. It will serve as a complementary resource to the handbooks and journals that have emerged in the last decade on this topic, and will be a useful resource for student and researcher alike. With comprehensive coverage of this field, key concepts will be explored. These include social cognition, prey and predator detection, habitat selection, mating and parenting, learning and perception. Attention is also given to animal-human co-evolution and interaction, as well as metacognition and consciousness.

Waldau, Paul and Kimberly Patton, eds. A Communion of Subjects: Animals in Religion, Science, and Ethics. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006. The quote is from the publisher’s website. A fine volume surely, but to me it still seemed like a collection of articles in need of an encompassing cosmology that can fully appreciate animals as personal co-participants.

It is the first comparative and interdisciplinary study of humans' conceptualization of animals in world religions. Cultural historian Thomas Berry eloquently insists that "the world is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects." Using the implications of this statement as a starting point, the contributors to this collection treat animals as subjects and consider how major religious traditions have incorporated them into their belief systems, myths, and rituals. Their findings offer profound insight into humans' relationships with animals and a deeper understanding of the social and ecological web in which we all live. Leading scholars from a wide range of disciplines and religious traditions, including Marc Bekoff (cognitive ethology), Wendy Doniger (study of myth), Peter Singer (animals and ethics), Jane Goodall (biology), Thomas Berry (history), John Grim and Mary Evelyn Tucker (religion) have supplied original material for this volume.

Wasserman, Edward and Thomas Zentall, eds. Comparative Cognition: Experimental Explorations of Animal Intelligence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Now that real cognitive abilities, with human counterparts, are admitted throughout the animal kingdom, a burst of research has commenced which this volume conveys. These are collected in ten sections: Perception and Illusion, Attention and Search, Memory, Spatial Cognition, Timing and Counting, Conceptualization and Categorization, Pattern Learning, Tool Fabrication and Use, Problem Solving and Behavioral Flexibility, and Social Cognition. All of which implies a heretofore unnoticed evolutionary progression in brain, mind, and active awareness.

Wheeler, Wendy and Linda Williams. The Animals Turn. New Formations. No. 76, 2012. A dedicated issue by mostly woman scholars about a deep continuity with our co-evolutionary companions whom are graced by much more empathy, intelligence and awareness than a past reductive exclusion can give them credit for. A novel thesis is to appreciate the “endless spiral of semiosis” that informs and joins living entities. Typical luminous essays are: “Cosmopolis: The Kiss of Life” by Deborah Bird Rose, and Freya Mathews’ “The Anguish of Wildlife Ethics.”

Animal studies in the humanities raises a number of interesting questions. These are ethical questions perhaps most obviously, but also include the question of animal consciousness and mind, and of the animal mind in the human. ‘Mind’ might be a property of systems (vegetative, animal human) rather than of individual consciousness only. Indeed, the idea that anything like individual consciousness could exist in the absence of an entity’s embeddedness in biocybernetic systems (bodies and worlds and, hence, differences and information) seems extremely unlikely. Just as with new differences articulated in earlier explorations of difference, studies in human-animal relations opens up new, and perhaps urgent, avenues and modes of signification, thinking, doing, being and becoming.

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