Do Other Animals
In the 1984 issue of Brain/Mind Bulletin
(Vol. 9, No. 10, May 28, 1984), research is cited which seems
to indicate that animals do have the capacity to think to a limited
degree. They appear to anticipate events, make choices,
adapt to new situations, and coordinate group activities.
No one has ever questioned that human
beings are unique and quite different from the rest of the animal
kingdom. The question often debated is what makes us as
humans so unique. Is it the fact that we have the capacity to
think or is it something else?
A spider, for example, can act unpredictably
in spinning a web. Webs are usually symmetrical, but a spider
might build an asymmetrical one when that would be more efficient.
Other animals seem to anticipate results
of their behavior and appear disappointed if their expectations
go unfulfilled. This would indicate a degree of "if-then"
Are these simple mental processes indicators
of conscious awareness? It would seem so, according to
biologist Donald Griffins thesis in his book Animal
Thinking. It seems okay to suggest that animals perceive
and process information, as long as we do not claim that animals
The popular model for animal behavior
is no more than a highly sophisticated robot, rigidly controlled
by genetic programming. British psychologist Stephen Walker
has also authored a book about Animal Thought. He
claims that a good deal of what goes on in animal brains is similar
to what goes on in human brains. If consciousness means
the ability to use brain power to direct and select perception,
memory and action, then we have no reason to believe that it
is uniquely human, claims Walker.
Of course, we always come up against
the fact that humans think in words, and can use words to comment
on their own mental states. Still, animals seem to have
a degree of (a) numerical awareness, (b) awareness of spatial
relationships, (c) verbal thought, and (d) conscious planning,
Donald Griffin, Rockefeller
University, New York, N.Y., U.S.A., Animal Thinking, Harvard
Stephen Walker, Psychology Department, Birkbeck College,
University of London, U.K, Animal Thought, Routledge &