Minds Of Animals Essay Research Paper A

Minds Of Animals Essay, Research Paper

A New Approach to Animal Minds


Purpose for Report

Certainly, there are many non-human animals that inhabit the almighty mother

earth. The human race has always been interested in the behavior of other animals found

in this diverse world. This report will definitely be a very insightful and interesting guide

to those in search of understanding the capabilities of the animal mind. This informative

document will discuss the question of animal self-awareness, the ability of animals to

think and reason in various situations and most importantly give an in depth analysis about

the conscious thinking of animals. Furthermore, references will be made to articles and

books written by experts in the field of animal behavior so to provide valid information

from a reliable source.

What is Conscious Thinking?

Before discussing animals themselves, first there are certain definitions that the

reader must become familiar with. ?Most people have no doubt of their own conscious

thinking but cannot convey to another person all that they experience? ( Griffin 5). To be

conscious is defined as ? aware of what one is intending to do or having a purpose or

intention in one?s actions? (Webster?s 55). The word think is defined as ? to have in mind

a notion or idea? (Webster?s 268) . Therefore, it can be inferred that to be a conscious

thinker would include having in mind an idea or notion and being aware of what one is

intending to do with this idea. Now that these terms have been discussed, applying them

to animals will be a great deal simpler.

A Fine Line

Cognitive Theories

When speaking of conscious thinking within animals, there are two extreme sides

of the argument. One extremity is cognitive theories. Lately, more and more scientists

are opening their eyes to the opinions of cognitive scientists who believe that animals do

have emotion, feeling, reasoning and are fully conscious. ?Our challenge is to venture

across the species boundary and try to gather satisfactory information about what other

species may think or feel? (Griffin 12) . As a result of the intuition of the few cognitive

scientists in the world, there have been extensive research and experiments done that are

providing vital information concerning the conscious thinking of animals.

Behavioral Theories

Another extreme opinion when dealing with animal thoughts is the behavioral

theory. Many behavioral scientists believe that animals do not think or reason, they

merely act on pure instinct and predetermined behavior. ?Most biologists and

psychologists tend, explicitly or implicitly, to treat most of the worlds animals as

mechanisms, complex mechanisms to be sure, but unthinking robots nonetheless? (Griffin

9). These types of scientists feel that animals are creatures who do not feel, think or

are aware of what they are. Long ago this was a very popular opinion but as of late more

and more experts have questioned the validity of this theory.

Studies of conscious thinking

Rio, the Logical Sea Lion

In California an experiment has been done to help support the theories of many

cognitive scientists. ?Rio, a seven-year-old sea lion at the University of California at Santa

Cruz, thinks like a human.? (Crabb 1). Miraculously, Rio understands a simple

mathematical concept. ?If A equals B, and B equals C, then it follows that A equals C,

and even that C equals A. Most humans know that, sort of. So does Rio? (1 Crabb). To

prove this, Dr. Schusterman from the University, helps Rio to match ?the silhouette of a

crab with that of a tulip, and then the tulip with a radio, Rio then makes a logical leap; she

matches the crab with the radio. It may seem like a small thing, but it is a basic kind of

logical thinking? (Crabb 1). This informative experiment is only one of the phenomenal

leaps that has been made in the progress of cognitive theories.

Hans, the Clever Horse

In another study, a horse called ?Hans? has surpassed simple logical thinking and

has become somewhat of an animal scholar. After long training this highly intelligent

animal has demonstrated the capacity for abstract thinking.

Hans could not only count, he could also solve problems in arithmetic. The four

fundamental processes were entirely familiar to him. Common fractions he

changed to decimals, and vice versa; he could solve problems in mensuration – and

all with such ease that it was difficult to follow him if one had become somewhat

rusty in these branches. ( In the case of all fractions Hans would first tap the

numerator and then the denominator) (Henderson 47)

This illustration of the ability for an animal to reason numerical problems is indisputable

evidence that the minds of animals have the capacity for logical thinking. Furthermore,

?Hans? has demonstrated that he is very intelligent and can understand more complex

ideas than some humans.

The Question of Self Awareness

Many experiments have been repeatedly done to prove that an animal can

think and reason, but the question of whether animals are aware of themselves and their

surroundings still hinders the minds of many. One scientist, Gordon Gallup of the State

University of New York, has helped to answer this intriguing question. His experiment

was carried out with the use of several chimpanzees who had become familiar with the

use of mirrors. After putting the chimpanzees to sleep, Gordon applied ?marks of bright

red dye to a chimpanzee?s eyebrow ridge and opposite ear. The dye is odorless and

nonirratating, so the chimp can?t smell or feel it; nor can the chimp see the marks without

the aid of a mirror? (Wright 3). When the chimpanzees were revived they looked in the

mirror and did a double take. Instantly they began to wipe the red dye from their own

body and then inspect their fingers. This obviously proves that the chimpanzees have

come to the realization that the image seen in the mirror is their own. Therefore it can be

said that these animals are aware of not only their appearance but their existence as well.

This test Gordon produced is now a standard measure of self-recognition known as the

mark test.

Binti-Jua: The Gorilla heroine

In Chicago, at the Brookfeild Zoo, there lives a hero of a different kind. It is not a

a knight in shining armor or a soldier carrying a gun, instead it is a one-hundred and sixty

pound gorilla named Binti-Jua. Recently a young boy had fallen down into the gorilla pit

where numerous gorillas were roaming. The young three-year-old boy was injured and

the zoo attendants feared that the gorilla?s would attack the young child. ?But Binti-Jua

strolled over and scooped the injured boy up in her arm. She carried him about forty feet

around the pit to a door used by zoo attendants. There she laid the boy down for the zoo

attendant to retrieve? (Ruether 1). This display of heroism not only illustrates that the

gorilla used conscious thinking to realize the danger the boy was in but also it is evident

that the gorilla felt sympathy for the child. Amazingly this gesture of caring towards the

child has made many people realize that animals do have the capacity for emotion and



The Hard Evidence

The previously stated examples are indisputable situations where animals have

shown a high level of conscious thinking. These are only a very small portion of the

thousands of experiments that are done to help support the theories of cognitive scientists.

Hopefully this report has grasped the attention of numerous readers who think that

animals are just mindless zombies. ?What needs to be questioned is our capacity to

surpress compassionate mutual recognition of personhood toward animals, which has

justified our ill treatment of them? (Ruether 2). With this in mind, a point must be made

to try to understand the feeling and emotions that are compromised when animals are

treated like inanimate objects instead of conscious, thinking beings.

The Undesirable Truth

It is an unmistakable fact that there are numerous examples that support the idea

that animal?s are conscious, thinking and feeling organisms. This is evident through the

progress made by cognitive scientists when working with animals like the sea lion ?Rio,

the clever horse ?Hans?, Binti-Jua the heroine and the chimpanzees who were aware of

their existence. Even with these concrete facts many people still do not want to believe

that animals may have the same mind capacity that humans have. This may be the result of

many people believing that animals are all inferior or maybe because it is scary for people

to think animals have that much mind capacity. In any case, this new evidence that is

being revealed has opened a whole new world of wonder to many curious scientists. With

this in mind, there is obviously more and more reason to believe that animals are much

more then mindless zombies.

Works Cited

Crabb Charlene. ?Rio, the logical sea lion?. Discover. Feb 93, Vol.14, Issue 2, p.20.

Griffin R. Donald. Animal Thinking . Cambridge, Massachusetts: Havard University

Press, 1984.

Henderson W. Robert. Learning in Animals . ed. Stephen W. Porges. Stroudsburg,

Pennsylvania: Hutchinson Ross Publishing Company, 1982.

Ruether, Radfor Rosemary. ?Animals could teach us a lot about ourselves?. National

Catholic Reporter. Sept. 96, Vol 32, Issue 41, p22.


Wright, Karen. ?The Tarzan Syndrome? . Discover. Nov. 96, Vol 17, Issue 11, p.88.