Comparative cognitive science often involves asking questions like ‘Do nonhumans have C?’ where C is a capacity we take humans to have. These questions frequently generate unproductive disagreements, in which one party affirms and the other denies that nonhumans have the relevant capacity on the basis of the same evidence. I argue that these questions can be productively understood as questions about natural kinds: do nonhuman capacities fall into the same natural kinds as our own? Understanding such questions in this (...) way has several advantages: it preserves the intuition that these are substantive empirical questions worth asking; it helps us to understand why they so frequently give rise to disagreements of the kind described; and it provides clues about how to diagnose and resolve them. (shrink)
Like many others, I see Crump et al. (2022) as a milestone for improving upon previous guidelines and for extending their framework to decapod crustaceans. Their proposal would benefit from a firm evolutionary foundation by adding the comparative measurement of life-history complexity as a ninth criterion for attributing sentience to nonhuman animals.
I try to identify elements of our mental capacities that separate us from animals. I focus on our command of logical concepts, demonstrable already in children in the second or third year of their life, which to date no animal has been shown to master. I draw various conclusions about the behavioural, intellectual, emotional, and moral capacities that depend on this mastery, and discuss recent empirical research that either supports or apparently disagrees with the claim that animals, even those we (...) consider intelligent, are limited in these respects. My discussion is built around observations extracted from Wittgenstein. (shrink)
Starting in 1958, Harry Harlow published numerous research papers analyzing the emotional and social development of rhesus monkeys. This essay examines the presentation of Harlow's work in introductory psychology textbooks from 1958 to 1975, focusing on whether the textbooks erased the process of research, presented results without hedging, and provided a uniform account of Harlow's work and results. It argues that many textbooks were not passive vehicles of knowledge transmission; instead, they played a role similar to articles of meta-analysis and (...) literature reviews. (shrink)
Robert Nola has argued that anti-rationalist interpretations of science fail to adequately explain the process of science, since objective reasons can be causal factors in belief formation. While I agree with Nola that objective reasons can be a cause of belief, in this paper I present a version of the strong programme in the sociology of knowledge, the Interests Thesis, and argue that the Interests Thesis provides a plausible explanation of an episode in the history of ape-language research. Specifically, I (...) examine Terrace, Petitto, Sandess, & Bever illegitimate comparison of the signing of their chimpanzee, Nim, with data from human early childhood language development, and argue that Terrace et al.’s interests played a causal role in determining their sceptical beliefs concerning ape linguistic abilities. However, I go on to argue that Terrace et al.’s interests are not the only causal factors in determining their beliefs: objective reasons, associated with the institution of new methodologies, were also causally determinative of Terrace et al.’s sceptical beliefs. Consequently, I argue that belief formation in science is a multi-factorial affair wherein both interests and objective reasons have causal roles. I finish the paper with two conjectures concerning the proper locus of scientific rationality. (shrink)
The question, “Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind?” is logically identical to the question, “Does the chimpanzee have a soul?” It is a peculiarity of our culture that we talk about anyone having a mind, and such talk is unhelpful for a science of behavior. The label “killjoy hypothesis” is an ad hominem attack.
We commend Arbib for his original proposal that a mirror neuron system may have participated in language origins. However, in our view he proposes a complex evolutionary scenario that could be more parsimonious. We see no necessity to propose a hand-based signing stage as ancestral to vocal communication. The prefrontal system involved in human speech may have its precursors in the monkey's inferior frontal cortical domain, which is responsive to vocalizations and is related to laryngeal control.
The view that female mammals are more docile appears to arise in part from imposing human values on animal studies. Many reports of sexual dimorphism in physical aggression favouring the male in laboratory rodents appear to select circumstances where that expectation is supported. Other situations that favour the expression of conflict in females have been (until recently) relatively little studied. Although female rodents generally do not show the “ritualised” forms of conflict that characterise male sexual competition, they can use notably (...) damaging strategies (especially if they are of short duration). Such considerations might weigh in the selection of strategies by our own species. (shrink)
In the animal literature, the concept of dominance usually links status in intermale encounters with differential reproductive success. Mazur & Booth effectively review the human literature correlating testosterone with intermale competition, but more profound questions relating this to male–female dynamics have yet to be addressed in research with humans.
Sound comparative psychology and modern evolutionary and developmental biology emphasize powerful effects of developmental conditions on the expression of genetic endowment. Both demand that evolutionary theorists recognize these effects. Sound comparative psychology also demands experimental procedures that prevent experimenters from shaping the responses of human and nonhuman beings to conform to theoretical expectations.
This commentary takes issue with the idea that replication is a “fundamental element” in natural selection. Such an assumption is based on a traditional, mechanistic view of evolution. A symbiogenetic theory of evolution offers an alternative to traditional theories, emphasizing reproduction and qualitative development rather than replication and quantitative development. The issues raised by the symbiogenetic alternative may be extended to discussions of behavioral development.
We agree that human culture is unique. However, we also believe that an understanding of the evolution of culture requires a comparative approach. We offer examples of collaborative behaviors from dolphin play, and argue that consideration should be given to whether various forms of culture are best viewed as falling along a continuum or as discrete categories.
Relational representation abilities are a crucial cognitive difference between human and nonhuman animals. We argue that relational reasoning and representation supports the development of culture that increases in complexity. Thus, these abilities are a force that magnifies the apparent difference in cognitive abilities between humans and nonhumans.
Smith et al. propose that the most parsimonious explanation for identical responses of humans and nonhumans under the same conditions is not always the simplest cognitive explanation but could be the one that has the most logical consistency across species. The authors provide convincing evidence and a reasonable argument for declarative consciousness as a shared psychological property in humans, monkeys, and dolphins.
In communication studies, in contrast to the approach of the information-transmission hypothesis, the dynamic systems theory tackles the problem of continous feedback between interactors. However, Shanker & King's (S&K's) account seems to lack methodological elaboration, for the reader is presented with anecdotes. Furthermore, in contrast to the authors' beliefs, chimpanzees (and humans) are not the only animals able to show coregulated communicative interactions, for similar phenomena can be found in other animals, as for example in dogs.
In recent years we have seen a dramatic shift, in several different areas of communication studies, from an information-theoretic to a dynamic systems paradigm. In an information processing system, communication, whether between cells, mammals, apes, or humans, is said to occur when one organism encodes information into a signal that is transmitted to another organism that decodes the signal. In a dynamic system, all of the elements are continuously interacting with and changing in respect to one another, and an aggregate (...) pattern emerges from this mutual co-action. Whereas the information-processing paradigm looks at communication as a linear, binary sequence of events, the dynamic systems paradigm looks at the relation between behaviors and how the whole configuration changes over time. One of the most dramatic examples of the significance of shifting from an information processing to a dynamic systems paradigm can be found in the debate over the interpretation of recent advances in ape language research (ALR). To some extent, many of the early ALR studies reinforced the stereotype that animal communication is functional and stimulus bound, precisely because they were based on an information-processing paradigm that promoted a static model of communicative development. But Savage-Rumbaugh's recent results with bonobos has introduced an entirely new dimension into this debate. Shifting the terms of the discussion from an information-processing to a dynamic systems paradigm not only highlights the striking differences between Savage-Rumbaugh's research and earlier ALR studies, but further, it sheds illuminating light on the factors that underpin the development of communication skills in great apes and humans, and the relationship between communicative development and the development of language. Key Words: apes; ape language research (ALR); brain development; co-regulation; communication; dynamic systems; language development; symbols. (shrink)
The title of the target article suggests an agenda for research on cognitive evolution that is doubly flawed. It implies that we can learn directly about animals' mental states, and its focus on human uniqueness impels a search for an existence proof rather than for understanding what components of given cognitive processes are shared among species and why.
One of the most widely used procedures applied to non-human animals or pre-linguistic humans is the “violation of expectation paradigm”. Curiously there is almost no discussion in the philosophical literature about it. Our objective will be to provide a first approach to the meta-theoretical nature of the assumptions behind the procedure that appeals to the violation of expectation and to extract some consequences. We show that behind them exists an empirical principle that affirms that the violation of the expectation of (...) certain mental rules generates surprise. We then proceeded to discuss the nature of these “mental rules”. We show that, as is often the case with theoretical concepts proposed by theories, they do not have a fixed interpretation. This will allow us to show that the usual relationship found in the developmental psychology literature between this experimental paradigm and cognitive approaches (which interpret experimental results in terms of higher-level mental activities) is not necessary. Finally, we relate this experimental design with the mark test and the inequity aversion test and discuss the possible ampliation of the application of the empirical principle of violation of expectation. (shrink)
Radical embodied cognitive science is split into two camps: the ecological approach and the enactive approach. We propose that these two approaches can be brought together into a productive synthesis. The key is to recognize that the two approaches are pursuing different but complementary types of explanation. Both approaches seek to explain behavior in terms of the animal–environment relation, but they start at opposite ends. Ecological psychologists pursue an ontological strategy. They begin by describing the habitat of the species, and (...) use this to explain how action possibilities are constrained for individual actors. Enactivists, meanwhile, pursue an epistemic strategy: start by characterizing the exploratory, self-regulating behavior of the individual organism, and use this to understand how that organism brings forth its animal-specific umwelt. Both types of explanation are necessary: the ontological strategy explains how structure in the environment constrains how the world can appear to an individual, while the epistemic strategy explains how the world can appear differently to different members of the same species, relative to their skills, abilities, and histories. Making the distinction between species habitat and animal-specific umwelt allows us to understand the environment in realist terms while acknowledging that individual living organisms are phenomenal beings. (shrink)
This chapter provides a brief overview of the history of behavioral neurology, dividing it roughly into six eras. In the ancient and classical eras, emphasis is placed on two transitions: firstly, from descriptions of head trauma and attempted neurosurgical treatments to the exploratory dissections during the Hellenistic period and the replacement of cardiocentrism; and secondly, to the more systematic investigations of Galenus and the rise of pneumatic ventricular theory. In the medieval through post-Renaissance eras, the scholastic consolidation of knowledge and (...) the role of compendia are emphasized, along with the use of new methods from within a mechanistic framework. With the discovery of electrical conductance and the rise of experimentalism, we frame the modern era as period of intense debate over localization, decomposition, and other mechanistic principles, and marked by rapid discovery about the brain. The chapter ends with a discussion of the contemporary era, focusing on the establishment of behavioral neurology research on aphasia, apraxia, and neuropsychiatric conditions. (shrink)
In the present review we focus on what we take to be some remaining issues with the Behaviour Change Intervention Ontology (BCIO). We are in full agreement with the authors’ endorsement of the principles of best practice for ontology development In particular, we agree that an ontology should be “logically consistent and having a clear structures [sic], preferably a well-organised hierarchical structure,” and that “Maximising the new ontology’s interoperability with existing ontologies by reusing entities from existing ontologies where appropriate” is (...) critically important (Wright et al., 2020, p. 17). Our remaining concerns with BCIO relate directly to these two principles. First, we identify a number of issues with some of the classifications and definitions in BCIO that seem to be in tension with the just-mentioned principle . Second, we note some reservations about the reuse of certain classes in BCIO, namely from the Gazetteer (GAZ), the Ontology of Medically Related Social Entities (OMRSE), and the Information Artifact Ontology (IAO). While the latter principle of “reuse” is important, it is also important not to let the reuse of existing classes (or their corresponding definitions) compromise the logical integrity or the realist nature of one’s ontology. (shrink)
Biologists explain organisms’ behavior not only as having been programmed by genes and shaped by natural selection, but also as the result of an organism’s agency: the capacity to react to environmental changes in goal-driven ways. The use of such ‘agential explanations’ reopens old questions about how justified it is to ascribe agency to entities like bacteria or plants that obviously lack rationality and even a nervous system. Is organismic agency genuinely ‘real’ or is it just a useful fiction? In (...) this paper we focus on two questions: whether agential explanations are to be interpreted ontically, and whether they can be reduced to non-agential explanations (thereby dispensing with agency). The Kantian approach we identify interprets agential explanations non-ontically, yet holds agency to be indispensable. Attributing agency to organisms is not to be taken literally in the way we attribute physical properties such as mass or acceleration, but nor is it a mere heuristic or predictive tool. Rather, it is an inevitable consequence of our own rational capacity: as long as we are rational agents ourselves, we cannot avoid seeing agency in organisms. (shrink)
In “Ontologies Relevant to behaviour change interventions: A Method for their Development” Wright, et al. outline a step by step process for building ontologies of behaviour modification – what the authors call the Refined Ontology Developmental Method (RODM) – and demonstrate its use in the development of the Behaviour Change Intervention Ontology (BCIO). RODM is based on the principles of good ontology building used by the Open Biomedical Ontology (OBO) Foundry in addition to those outlined in (Arp, Smith, and Spear (...) 2015). BCIO uses as its top-level ontology Basic Formal Ontology (BFO). The methods outlined in Wright, et al. are a valuable contribution to the field, especially the use of formal mechanisms for literature annotation and expert stakeholder review, and the BCIO will certainly play an important role in the extension of OBO Foundry ontologies into the behavioural domain. (shrink)
In infancy, all primates require a caregiver who meets their physical needs, such as food and protection (among many others), and their affective, cognitive, and social needs (in some species, this requirement extends until the primate is a juvenile). The caregiver is essential for primate infant survival and social and cognitive development. For that reason, infants are greatly affected if they lose their caregivers; the effects of becoming an orphan range from being unable to survive to behavioral and physiological consequences (...) that last through adulthood. This entry provides an overview of relevant aspects of the study of primate orphans such as survival rates, adoption, variables in the adoption process, the effects of losing a mother, and orphans in sanctuaries. (shrink)
What is the function of cognition? On one influential account, cognition evolved to co-ordinate behaviour with environmental change or complexity. Liberal interpretations of this view ascribe cognition to an extraordinarily broad set of biological systems—even bacteria, which modulate their activity in response to salient external cues, would seem to qualify as cognitive agents. However, equating cognition with adaptive flexibility per se glosses over important distinctions in the way biological organisms deal with environmental complexity. Drawing on contemporary advances in theoretical biology (...) and computational neuroscience, we cash these distinctions out in terms of different kinds of generative models, and the representational and uncertainty-resolving capacities they afford. This analysis leads us to propose a formal criterion for delineating cognition from other, more pervasive forms of adaptive plasticity. On this view, biological cognition is rooted in a particular kind of functional organisation; namely, that which enables the agent to detach from the present and engage in counterfactual inference. (shrink)
The organism against its environment. The organism against other organisms, competing and struggling for life. Antagonism and confrontment as the only possible relation in nature. The tendency to anthropomorphize nature and explain it using concepts and facts from the human sphere. A stroll through the worlds of Uexküll and Merleau-Ponty in the search of alternative knowledge that allow us to understand relation from another point of view. A counterpoint and identification of common tonalities between the research programs from both thinkers (...) as a way to demonstrate the possibilities of a more fruitful approach. Umwelt as a generative system of meaningful relations in which its participants are not mutually exclusive, but express a melody that include them all. (shrink)
Despite an increase in research examining maternal and infant touch, and documenting its public health impact, this mode of interaction has historically been omitted from related fields of developmental research in human and non‐human primates. The broad aim of this review is to examine to what extent mother–infant touch has been included in relational paradigms and research. We argue that although theoretical and empirical scholarship on attachment and maternal sensitivity conceptualizes touch as fundamental to caregiver–infant interactions and child development more (...) broadly, touch is rarely operationalized or measured in caregiver–infant interaction paradigms or clinical interventions. Data from primarily human, but also non‐human, primates are reviewed to document the importance of touch, and clinical research is reviewed to document the formal use of touch in human attachment and sensitivity research and intervention. The review closes with recommended directions for future research and related implications. (shrink)
In this paper we take an approach in Humanoid Robots are not considered as robots who resembles human beings in a realistic way of appearance and act but as robots who act and react like human that make them more believable by people. Regarding this approach we will study robot characters in animation movies and discuss what makes some of them to be accepted just like a moving body and what makes some other robot characters to be believable as a (...) living human. The goal of this paper is to create a rule set that describes friendly, socially acceptable, kind, cute... robots and in this study we will review example robots in popular animated movies. The extracted rules and features can be used for making real robots more acceptable. (shrink)
From the first months of life, human infants produce “protophones,” speech-like, non-cry sounds, presumed absent, or only minimally present in other apes. But there have been no direct quantitative comparisons to support this presumption. In addition, by 2 months, human infants show sustained face-to-face interaction using protophones, a pattern thought also absent or very limited in other apes, but again, without quantitative comparison. Such comparison should provide evidence relevant to determining foundations of language, since substantially flexible vocalization, the inclination to (...) explore vocalization, and the ability to interact socially by means of vocalization are foundations for language. Here we quantitatively compare data on vocalization rates in three captive bonobo (Pan paniscus) mother–infant pairs with various sources of data from our laboratories on human infant vocalization. Both humans and bonobos produced distress sounds (cries/screams) and laughter. The bonobo infants also produced sounds that were neither screams nor laughs and that showed acoustic similarities to the human protophones. These protophone-like sounds confirm that bonobo infants share with humans the capacity to produce vocalizations that appear foundational for language. Still, there were dramatic differences between the species in both quantity and function of the protophone and protophone-like sounds. The bonobo protophone-like sounds were far less frequent than the human protophones, and the human protophones were far less likely to be interpreted as complaints and more likely as vocal play. Moreover, we found extensive vocal interaction between human infants and mothers, but no vocal interaction in the bonobo mother–infant pairs—while bonobo mothers were physically responsive to their infants, we observed no case of a bonobo mother vocalization directed to her infant. Our cross-species comparison focuses on low- and moderate-arousal circumstances because we reason the roots of language entail vocalization not triggered by excitement, for example, during fighting or intense play. Language appears to be founded in flexible vocalization, used to regulate comfortable social interaction, to share variable affective states at various levels of arousal, and to explore vocalization itself. (shrink)
Cross-species comparisons are benefited by compatible datasets; conclusions related to phylogenetic comparisons, questions on convergent and divergent evolution, or homologs versus analogs can only be made when the behaviors being measured are comparable. A direct comparison of the social function of physical contact across two disparate taxa is possible only if data collection and analyses methodologies are analogous. We identify and discuss the parameters, assumptions and measurement schemes applicable to multiple taxa and species that facilitate cross-species comparisons. To illustrate our (...) proposed guidelines for evaluating the role played by tactile contact in social behavior across disparate taxa, this paper presents data on mother-offspring relationships in the two species studied by the authors: chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) and dolphins (bottlenose and spotted, Tursiops truncatus and Stenella frontalis, respectively). Cross-species comparative studies allow for a more comprehensive assessment of the similarities and differences with respect to how animals traverse the relationships that form their social groups and societies. (shrink)
In this commentary on Marino and Merskin's "Intelligence, complexity, and individuality in sheep", I argue that their literature review provides further evidence of the fundamental theoretical shift in psychology towards a non-anthropocentric psychological taxonomy, in which cognitive capacities are classified in a structure that provides an overall understanding of the place of mind (including human minds) throughout nature.
The emerging neurocomputational vision of humans as embodied, ecologically embedded, social agents—who shape and are shaped by their environment—offers a golden opportunity to revisit and revise ideas about the physical and information-theoretic underpinnings of life, mind, and consciousness itself. In particular, the active inference framework makes it possible to bridge connections from computational neuroscience and robotics/AI to ecological psychology and phenomenology, revealing common underpinnings and overcoming key limitations. AIF opposes the mechanistic to the reductive, while staying fully grounded in a (...) naturalistic and information-theoretic foundation, using the principle of free energy minimization. The latter provides a theoretical basis for a unified treatment of particles, organisms, and interactive machines, spanning from the inorganic to organic, non-life to life, and natural to artificial agents. We provide a brief introduction to AIF, then explore its implications for evolutionary theory, ecological psychology, embodied phenomenology, and robotics/AI research. We conclude the paper by considering implications for machine consciousness. (shrink)
There is something important about the way human primates use touch in social encounters; for example, consider greetings in airports (hugs vs. handshakes) and the way children push each other in a playground (a quick push to warn, a really hard one when it is serious!). Human primates use touch as a way of conveying a wide range of social information. In this chapter I will argue that one of the best ways of understanding social cognition in non-human primates is (...) through touch. Moreover, I will argue that if we would like to describe the evolutionary history of social cognition, touch is one of the ideal modes to operationalize social interaction across different kinds of primates. (shrink)
All methodologies used to characterize mother-infant interaction in non-human primates includes mother, infant, and other social factors. The chief difference is their understanding of how this interaction takes place. Using chimpanzees as a model, I will compare the different methodologies used to describe mother-infant interaction and show how implicit notions of communication and social interaction shape descriptions of this kind of interaction. I will examine the limitations and advantages of different approaches used in mother-infant studies and I will sketch an (...) alternative approach to studying mother-infant interaction in non-human primates that adopts Jerome Bruner’s developmental studies on human infant communication. (shrink)
This paper provides a theoretical exploration of how comparative research on the expression of emotions has traditionally focused on the visual mode and argues that, given the neurophysiological, developmental, and behavioral evidence that links touch with social interactions, focusing on touch can become an ideal mode to understand the communication of emotions in human and nonhuman primates. This evidence shows that touch is intrinsically linked with social cognition because it motivates human and nonhuman animals from birth to form social bonds. (...) It will be shown that touch is one of the modes of interaction used by the mother-infant or caregiver- infant dyad that facilitates the expression of emotions by the infant (and later the expression of emotions by the adult that the infant has become) in ways that are understood by other members of the group. (shrink)
Are animals moral agents? In this article, a theologian and an anthropologist unite to bring the resources of each field to bear on this question. Alas, not all interdisciplinary conversations end harmoniously, and after much discussion the two authors find themselves in substantial disagreement over the answer. The article is therefore presented in two halves, one for each side of the argument. As well as presenting two different positions, our hope is that this article clarifies the different understandings of morality (...) in our respective fields and will help to offset confusion in interdisciplinary dialogue. In what follows, we each present our case. In the first section, Adam Willows argues that moral activity necessarily involves the use of reason, symbolic thought, and language and is on that basis an exclusively human affair. In the second, Marcus Baynes-Rock discusses his experience of relationality with other creatures; a relationality which, he argues, creates a shared understanding of obligations which are characteristically moral. (shrink)
This volume provides a broad overview of issues in the philosophy of behavioral biology, covering four main themes: genetic, developmental, evolutionary, and neurobiological explanations of behavior. It is both interdisciplinary and empirically informed in its approach, addressing philosophical issues that arise from recent scientific findings in biological research on human and non-human animal behavior. Accordingly, it includes papers by professional philosophers and philosophers of science, as well as practicing scientists. Much of the work in this volume builds on presentations given (...) at the international conference, “Biological Explanations of Behavior: Philosophical Perspectives”, held in 2008 at the Leibniz Universität Hannover in Germany. The volume is intended to be of interest to a broad range of audiences, which includes philosophers (e.g., philosophers of mind, philosophers of biology, and metaethicists), as well as practicing scientists, such as biologists or psychologists whose interests relate to biological explanations of behavior. (shrink)
A recent dispute between Richard Dawkins and Edward O. Wilson concerning fundamental concepts in sociobiology is examined. It is argued that sociobiology has not fared well since the 1970s, and that its survival as a ‘scientific’ perspective has been increasingly tenuous. This is, at least in part, because it has failed to move forward in the ways its developers anticipated, but also because it has not seen the developments in natural history, genomics and social science it was relying upon. It (...) is argued that sociobiology has become a purely utilitarian perspective, a way of looking at things, reliant increasingly on studies of the behaviour of social insects for its scientific credentials. The dispute between Dawkins and Wilson is then reconsidered in this light, and it is argued that – regardless of which position prevails – sociobiology’s parlous state as a means of explaining action is now difficult to disguise. (shrink)
There were three broad categories of academic responses to Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male : method; findings; and broader reflections on the book’s place in American social life and democracy. This article focuses primarily on archival academic responses to Kinsey’s work that appeared in the year following the book’s publication. Many academics agreed that some aspects of Kinsey’s method were flawed and that his interpretations sometimes overreached his raw data. Nonetheless, they also agreed that no one else (...) had gathered such a diverse sampling of interviewees whose behaviors Kinsey could use to create new interpretive models of human sexuality. As Kinsey’s research was deliberately interdisciplinary, his research and statistical methodologies began to catch on in the human sciences and to encourage academics and intellectuals to rethink their human science practices. As academics reflected on the volume’s larger meaning in American life, several of them thought it exemplified the worst American values while others saw the very existence of the Male volume as an excellent example of the ability of free citizens to pursue and to publish research on any topic. While members of the American intelligentsia championed the Male volume and its findings as democratic, the reception of Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, published at an intense moment of the cold war, was viewed as a communist threat to American security for revealing the sexual secrets of the public. (shrink)
The sterile worker castes found in the colonies of social insects are often cited as archetypal examples of altruism in nature. The challenge is to explain why losing the ability to mate has evolved as a superior strategy for transmitting genes into future generations. We propose that two conditions are necessary for the evolution of sterility: completely overlapping generations and monogamy. A review of the literature indicates that when these two conditions are met we consistently observe the evolution of sterile (...) helpers. We explain the theory and evidence behind these ideas, and discuss the importance of ecology in predicting whether sterility will evolve using examples from social birds, mammals, and insects. In doing so, we offer an explanation for the extraordinary lifespans of some cooperative species which hint at ways in which we can unlock the secrets of long life. (shrink)
Data from a study by Savage-Rumbaugh and colleagues on comprehension of spoken English requests by a bonobo and a human infant supports Fitch's hypothesis that humans exhibit dendrophilia, or a propensity to manipulate tree structures, to a greater extent than other species. However, findings from language acquisition suggest that human infants do not show an initial preference for certain hierarchical syntactic structures. Infants are slow to acquire and generalize the structures in question, but they can eventually do so. Kanzi, in (...) contrast, is dendrophobic: even though his non-hierarchical strategy impairs comprehension, he never acquires the hierarchical structure. (shrink)
Characterizing human values is a topic deeply interwoven with the sciences, humanities, political philosophy, art, and many other human endeavors. In recent years, a number of thinkers have argued that accelerating trends in computer science, cognitive science, and related disciplines foreshadow the creation of intelligent machines which meet and ultimately surpass the cognitive abilities of human beings, thereby entangling an understanding of human values with future technological development. Contemporary research accomplishments suggest increasingly sophisticated AI systems becoming widespread and responsible for (...) managing many aspects of the modern world, from preemptively planning users’ travel schedules and logistics, to fully autonomous vehicles, to domestic robots assisting in daily living. The extrapolation of these trends has been most forcefully described in the context of a hypothetical “intelligence explosion,” in which the capabilities of an intelligent software agent would rapidly increase due to the presence of feedback loops unavailable to biological organisms. The possibility of superintelligent agents, or simply the widespread deployment of sophisticated, autonomous AI systems, highlights an important theoretical problem: the need to separate the cognitive and rational capacities of an agent from the fundamental goal structure, or value system, which constrains and guides the agent’s actions. The “value alignment problem” is to specify a goal structure for autonomous agents compatible with human values. In this brief article, we suggest that ideas from affective neuroscience and related disciplines aimed at characterizing neurological and behavioral universals in the mammalian kingdom provide important conceptual foundations relevant to describing human values. We argue that the notion of “mammalian value systems” points to a potential avenue for fundamental research in AI safety and AI ethics. (shrink)
Behavioural flexibility is often treated as the gold standard of evidence for more sophisticated or complex forms of animal cognition, such as planning, metacognition and mindreading. However, the evidential link between behavioural flexibility and complex cognition has not been explicitly or systematically defended. Such a defence is particularly pressing because observed flexible behaviours can frequently be explained by putatively simpler cognitive mechanisms. This leaves complex cognition hypotheses open to ‘deflationary’ challenges that are accorded greater evidential weight precisely because they offer (...) putatively simpler explanations of equal explanatory power. This paper challenges the blanket preference for simpler explanations, and shows that once this preference is dispensed with, and the full spectrum of evidence—including evolutionary, ecological and phylogenetic data—is accorded its proper weight, an argument in support of the prevailing assumption that behavioural flexibility can serve as evidence for complex cognitive mechanisms may begin to take shape. An adaptive model of cognitive-behavioural evolution is proposed, according to which the existence of convergent trait–environment clusters in phylogenetically disparate lineages may serve as evidence for the same trait–environment clusters in other lineages. This, in turn, could permit inferences of cognitive complexity in cases of experimental underdetermination, thereby placing the common view that behavioural flexibility can serve as evidence for complex cognition on firmer grounds. (shrink)
on ). Advice about how to move forward on the mindreading debate, particularly when it comes to overcoming the logical problem, is much needed in comparative psychology. In chapter 4 of his book Ockham’s Razors, Elliott Sober takes on the task by suggesting how we might uncover the mechanism that mediates between the environmental stimuli that is visible to all, and chimpanzee social behavior. I argue that Sober's proposed method for deciding between the behaivor-reading and mindreading hypotheses fails given the (...) nature of each of those hypotheses. I argue that the behavior-reading hypothesis that Povinelli and colleagues propose is so rich and robust that it is going to make predictions that are behaviorally indiscernible from the mindreading hypothesis. Further, I argue that the logical problem artificially separates one’s knowledge of behavior and one’s knowledge of mind. If we reject this form of dualism, the logical problem doesn’t arise. (shrink)
There have been several recent attempts to think about psychological kinds as homologies. Nevertheless, there are serious epistemic challenges for individuating homologous psychological kinds, or cognitive homologies. Some of these challenges are revealed when we look at competing claims of cognitive homology. This paper considers two competing homology claims that compare human anger with putative aggression systems of nonhuman animals. The competition between these hypotheses has been difficult to resolve in part because of what I call the boundary problem: boundaries (...) between instances of psychological kinds (e.g., anger and fear) cannot be directly observed. Thus, there are distinctive difficulties for individuating psychological kinds across lineages. I draw four conclusions from this case study: First, recent evidence from the neuroscience of fear suggests that one of the proposed homologies involves a straightforward conflation of anger and fear. Second, this conflation arises because of the boundary problem. Third, there is an implicit constraint on the operational criteria that is easy to overlook in the psychological case. In this case, ignoring the constraint is part of the problem. Fourth, this is a clear case in which knowledge of homology cannot be accumulated piecemeal. Identifying homologs of human anger requires identifying homologs of fear. (shrink)
Turtles are among the most intriguing amniotes but their communication and signaling have rarely been studied. Traditionally, they have been seen as basically just silent armored ‘walking stones’ with complex physiology but no altruism, maternal care, or aesthetic perception. Recently, however, we have witnessed a radical change in the perception of turtle behavioral and cognitive skills. In our study, we start by reviewing some recent findings pertaining to various highly developed behavioral and cognitive patterns with special emphasis on turtles. Then (...) we focus on freshwater turtles and use data about their sexual behavior and size sexual dimorphism to test whether conspicuous coloration of the head is in these animals related to sexual processes. We found that absence of aggressive mating behavior is statistically associated with the presence of conspicuous coloration on turtles’ heads. It also seems that while species with female-biased SSD are characterised by conspicuously colored head ornaments, in species with male-biased SSD conspicuous coloration is absent. Unlike large females, males thus seem to be under pressure to develop conspicuous coloration and engage in non-aggressive behavior using signaling to succeed in courtship. And finally, we discuss possible roles of head color patterns in turtle communication during mating. (shrink)