VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies
3. Animal Intelligence and Sociality
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?
Simard, Suzanne. Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest. New York: Knopf, 2021. The University of British Columbia forest ecologist (search) provides a memoir of her field and theoretic studies among the ancient verdant arbors of the Pacific Northwest along with a luminous vision of how these flora and fauna ecosystems are actually suffused, and sustained by whole scale organismic networks. A further insight, which is dawning across this field, is the presence of an aware intelligent cognizance. We refer to a good book review It Takes a Wood to Raise a Tree (akin to a faunal village) by Emma Morris in Nature (594/171, 2021), and The Social Life of Forests by Ferris Jabr in the New York Times (December 2, 2020) for growing appreciations of her historic perception.
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.