Couch-Potato Cats?

Fri, 5 Jan 1996 10:00:15 CST

Our cat occasionally watches the TV screen for a few moments, but I have
no reason to think it is the images, rather than the motion alone, that
is catching her attention. Surely I have never seen cats or dogs take
any interest in photographic images; and I thought I had read that
non-primates--or even non-pongids--just don't seem able to "process"
such images. Yet in rummaging for the reference, I read Alison Jolly,
in her *Evolution of Primate Behavior* (2nd ed., p. 389), cite a
Herrnstein paper to the effect that even "Pigeons can pick out pictures
that contain trees, or even a particular person in different poses and
setting." This renders it even more ludicrous to imagine that humans
anywhere might have trouble processing photographic images--unless, of
course, the image is of something unfamiliar for cultural reasons.
Thus, J. Craig makes the excellent distinction between recognizing a
letter for what it is, and recognizing an everyday object--a human face,
say--in photographic form. As M. Cohen stated, there is a distressing
preference, on the part of many students, to exoticizeand mystify the s
o-called "Other"; and of course post-modernism has reinforced this. At
any rate, I was hasty in writing off our pet pets as photo-processors;
my apologies to them and their offended owners! --Bob Graber