Re: Thoughts on "Origins of human thought"

Griffin (
22 Oct 1995 03:14:42 GMT

Just a layman who reads a lot, responding to the discussion about the
African grey that learned to recognize shapes etc.:
Animals who live in close proximity to humans do indeed give one to
think, and it's almost impossible not to anthropomorphize them. I've
lived with cats all my life, and my whole family has developed the habit
of holding conversations with them, in which one family member will
address the cat, and another family member will respond for the cat. The
interesting thing is that the cat will frequently act in a way
appropriate to the response (eg, my husband gives the cat what he asks
for; I say "Thank you, Daddy." The cat bumps heads with my husband).
They also exhibit what appears to be altruistic behavior, mixed in with
normal cat selfishness. I swear, I have seen our neutered male "boss
cat" deliberately open doors for ladies; and he'll happily share his cat
food with strays. One of my mother's cats will apologize for accidental
scratches, and the other has a "doll" that she "pretends to feed."
The question is, how much is what the cat does, and how much is what we
perceive? How much of this behavior have we unconsciously trained into
the cats with our own behavior? "Unconscious cueing" has been used to
train pigs and horses and other mammals for years, as I know from reading
about sideshow acts; and probably explains most of our cats' behavior.
How far does unconscious cueing effect bird behavior? Has anyone studied
this? And did the woman with the African gray parrot take precautions
against it?
Just wondering.