Re: Thoughts on "Origins of human thought"

Griffin (
25 Oct 1995 02:09:49 GMT

I think Mark is misinterpreting the interpretations of the
people who are bringing up unconscious cueing -- certainly he's
misinterpreting me. I think Kanzi and other apes, not to mention my
cats, are clever as heck -- but that doesn't mean we can interpret their
actions in the same way we would interpret them if they were done by
humans. We have very little insight into how an animal brain works.
It's egocentric and arrogant to assume that the obvious, anthropomorphic
form of cleverness is the correct one. Griffith's horses are picking up
subtle clues that the human audience can't detect, but which the horse
regards as obvious. That's partly a difference in perception, partly in
motivation, partly -- what? My cats are (probably!) picking up signals I
don't even know I'm giving. The problem with unconscious cueing is that
an animal doesn't have to understand *why* a human wants a certain result
in order to pick up on it, and if there's a bond between the animal and
the human, the animal will do its best to oblige by meeting expectations.
That's one reason humans like animals. They don't *argue,* they just do
or they don't. And the people who are most likely to build bonds with
animals are not necessarily the best people at refraining from the
temptation to anthropomorphize. My mother, the one with the cats who
apologize and play with dolls, is a champion anthropomorphizer. I could
explain about cueing all day long and she'd never grasp it.