Can humans always judge animal intelligence? Are we smart enough?
Many (including, alas, some scientists) are still convinced that animal thinking is not peculiar. But is it? Are people always smart enough to judge the intelligence of animals?
New research methods are being developed, and most often they refute this point of view. Moreover, new, more thoughtful experiments put people in a rather awkward position - they indicate that sometimes people, even scientists, are not so smart. In any case, not enough to make arrogant conclusions about the presence (or absence) of intelligence in animals.
By what criteria did a person judge animal intelligence?
Unfortunately, some experiments designed to determine whether animals have intelligence have failed miserably. But not because animals are not smart enough. But because people relied on inappropriate criteria.
For example, gibbons have long been considered almost mentally retarded, offering them to solve problems in which the monkeys had to choose different sticks in order to get a banana that was outside the cage. Chimpanzees easily solved this problem, and gibbons failed over and over again. But the brain of gibbons is quite large, and they belong to the same systematic group as you and I. Why are they so stupid?
It turned out that they were not stupid at all. This was found out by the primatologist Benjamin Beck in the 60s of the 20th century.He took into account that the life of gibbons takes place exclusively in the branches of trees, and even they move, clinging to branches and hanging on their hands. And because the forelimbs of these monkeys turned into a kind of hooks, and not into devices for touch and grab, like most monkeys. That is, they are extremely uncomfortable to use sticks, so they refused to pass such tests.
And such unsuccessful experiments are not unique. In fact, scientists, not taking into account the peculiarities of animal life in natural conditions, tried to hammer nails with a screwdriver and tighten the screws with a hammer. Is this reasonable? In my opinion, not really.
In the photo: Gibbon. Photo: pixabay.com
How to find out whether animals have intelligence?
To understand whether animals have intelligence, you need to change the conditions of the problem. Make it so that animals can demonstrate abilities developed during evolution and adapted to the natural conditions of life.
For example, Benjamin Beck modified the experiment with gibbons. He raised the ropes so that they were easy to grab - like branches. The task of the gibbons was to understand which rope is tied to a treat, and to pull by the necessary one. And the gibbons showed miracles of quick wisdom, effectively and quickly solving this problem!
That is, in fact, it was not the stupidity of the gibbons that took place, but the inconsistency of the experimenters, who completely did not take into account the living conditions of the monkeys and how evolution controlled their abilities.
Another failed experiment was conducted with elephants. For a long time, these cleverest animals were denied the ability to use tools.For example, the elephants also failed the same test with bananas - they did not even try to use a stick to get food.
However, the fact is that in elephants the trunk is also the nose. And it is used not only for grabbing food, but also for sniffing and feeling it. This is how the elephant understands what object it is dealing with. But, raising the stick, the elephant clogs the nasal passages and cannot smell the banana. It is akin to blindfolding a person and instructing him to find a hidden object. Would many of us quickly get through this task? I doubt it. Does this mean that a person is deprived of intelligence?
Fortunately, researchers were found who offered elephants other conditions for the same task. For example, Preston Ferder and Diana Reiss hung bananas high, and the elephant was offered sticks and a strong box. The elephant ignored the sticks, but began to push the box with his feet in such a way that he was under the bananas. After that, he stood with his front legs on the box and reached for a treat with his trunk.
That is, it turned out that elephants quite successfully use tools. If these guns suit them.
In the photo: elephants. Photo: pixabay.com
The conclusion suggests itself. Before drawing far-reaching conclusions that “animals do not think,” perhaps it would be better to study them.