Re: Thoughts on "Origins of human thought"

H. M. Hubey (
14 Oct 1995 20:36:52 -0400 (Phil Nicholls) writes:

>If you want to look for the origins of "abstract though" then I think
>this is a good place to begin. Surely perceptual maps are
>abstractions of the real world constructed from distance sense data.

The guy whose book you wrote about must be embarrased if he saw
the same thing I saw on one of the channels a few months ago.

An experiment was conducted with a bird (I can't remember what it
was). Various objects were put on the table. They varied by
shape, color and composition. The bird was taught the shapes
by the number of corners it had. I think it went up to about
4 or 5 which I believe is the upper limit of counting for birds.
The various objects were made up of things like plastic, wool,
wood, metal etc.

The experimenter would place some objects on the table and describe
the object, say, "three cornered, green". The bird would pick it
up and then utter the composition e.g. "wool".

I think after seeing that I'll never use the phrase "bird-brain"
the same way again, but the contention that abstract thought
started with mammals seems to be a way off after seeing this.
Naturally someone could argue that what the bird did was no
"abstract thought".


Regards, Mark