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1. Why do we study the cognitive abilities of non-human animals?

Our mental abilities are determined by biology, to a great extent. All animals have developed from common ancestors. There should be preserved similarities between nervous systems – as well as evolved differences. Animal behaviour can be compared and contrasted to make inferences about the relationship between CNS structure and the function of cognition. It can also allow us to pinpoint what makes humans unique from other species.


What practical issues make studying animal cognition easier than human?

Also, there are practical issues. With animals there is greater control over IVs and DVs, reduction of contaminating variables etc.


2. What role does instrumental learning play in tool use in non-human animals?

When tool use is reinforced, complex tool behaviours can be shaped. Animals can then generalise to novel stimuli, within limits. Play is important, in the case of chimps, for the animals to learn what tools can help get reward – the “affordance” of the tool.


3. How does the marking test test self-recognition in a mirror?

It tests if the animal knows what it is seeing in a mirror is itself. If the animal is marked, it spends more time looking at itself in the mirror than if it is sham-marked (with an empty marker). It can thus correlate what it sees with the mark on its body. Although the dolphin could simply be trying to see a dolphin with a mark, which would be salient.


4. What is the false belief test and how does it test a theory of mind?

Theory of mind is the ability to attribute mental states – beliefs, intentions, desires, pretending – to oneself and others and understand that others might have states different from one’s own. The false belief test is designed to test whether a subject recognises if another animal might have a belief in something that is not true - i.e. different from what the animal itself thinks.


What is theory of mind?

Theory of mind is the ability to attribute mental states – beliefs, intentions, desires, pretending – to oneself and others and understand that others might have states different from one’s own.


What is Morgan's canon of interpretation?

Morgan’s Canon of interpretation is the Ockham’s razor for interpreting behaviour
“In no case may we interpret an action as the outcome of the exercise of a higher psychical faculty if it can be interpreted as the outcome of the exercise of one which stands lower in the psychological scale”


Are humans better at learning than other species?

Not always. Non-human animals may be quicker to learn than us at certain tasks (eg. bees are better than infants – 2 trials to 28 – at learning L vs R turn to get reward). Humans appear to have a greater ability to generalise learning, to apply what they have learnt to novel situations. We can learn to learn.


How did Wolfgang Köhler demonstrate insight in chimps?

Lived with apes on Canary Islands. Mentality of Apes (1925). His apes “learnt” to solve problems, classic example being chimp Sultan fetching stick and climbing on it to get banana hanging from roof of enclosure. Kohler inferred insight from this behaviour.


How did Epstein et al. (1984) debunk Köhler's claim that animals have insight?

By training pigeons to get hanging reward - repeating Sultan's trick with a pigeon! Pigeon trained to move box to spot for reward. When presented with hanging banana (reward), pigeon generalises from spot to banana (both associated with food), moves box to spot and climbs on it for reward. Consequence for Köhler is that Sultan may have been rewarded for all intermediate actions in the banana fetching trick – thus no insight necessary. Thus the same result as Köhler's can be obtained – and explained – by associative learning and stimulus generalisation.


What evidence is there that animals understand the physics of problems they try to solve?

The A-frame tube trap apparatus test (Limongelli et al. 1995) suggests they don’t. Monkeys have at-chance performance at pushing out reward from tube. Animals just know doing this gets me that.


Can animals recognize intention?

Children and chimps can. They help people pick up things if the person is straining (Warneken and Tomasello, 2006)


Which animals have theory of mind?

Apes failed the false belief test, which implies they don’t understand that what someone is thinking might be wrong. (Call & Tomasello, 1999) Kids aged 5-6 can pass it (cf Piaget’s egocentrism). Autistic children have delays in development of theory of mind. Mute kids have theory of mind – it’s independent of language. Mute autistics don’t have it.