Thursday, May 01, 2008

Animal minds

I just finished reading this article in the March edition of "National Geographic" entitled "Inside Animal Minds." The article was not one of those how-to-communicate-with-your-pet like you see while waiting in the supermarket check out line. This article was more about how the minds of some animals are not that different from the minds of humans.

The writer, Virginia Morell, talked to several animal researchers that explained experiments done with animals to prove they are cognitive thinkers. Skills that are considered to point toward higher mental abilities include: good memory, a grasp of grammar and symbols, self-awareness understanding motives, imitating others and being creative.

Several animal researchers were quoted in the article describing how the researchers came to the conclusion that robots as previously thought. First, however, I think it is important to know that these are not the stereotypical researchers with mice and test tubes. Theses animals were considered friends and colleagues.

The first researcher Irene Pepperberg who decided to find out if birds could communicate. During her 31 years with her research subject — an African gray parrot named Alex — Pepperberg found out that birds were able to gather and use information and act on it. By the time Alex died at age 31, he could count to seven, name what he wanted to eat and what he was eating, differentiate between colors and shapes. Alex would also tell the other birds of his flock to "Talk clearly."

Another researcher found a Border Collie named Betsy who could identify her toys from pictures and bring the correct on from several toys. Betsy could identify approximately 300 words.

The article named several other animals tested with cognitive skills, including crows, pigeons, types of monkey and dolphins. The article wasn't necessarily about Darwin or his theories of evolution. Obviously a species, no matter the type, has to evolve to cope with its ever changing environments or else become extinct.

Just some food for thought.

Posted by Stephanie



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home