Do other animals think like humans?
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Dr. Claude Brodeur, PhD


Do Other Animals Think?

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" thinking.

Are these simple mental processes indicators of conscious awareness?  It would seem so, according to biologist Donald Griffin’s 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 have self-consciousness.

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,

References
Donald Griffin, Rockefeller University, New York, N.Y., U.S.A., Animal Thinking, Harvard University Press. 
Stephen Walker,  Psychology Department, Birkbeck College, University of London, U.K, Animal Thought, Routledge & Kegan Paul.


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Copyright © 1999, Dr. Claude Brodeur, PhD
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Created c. 1984
Page last modified:
October 29, 2000