Re: Where are Behavior Patterns?

Matthew Hill (mhill@WATARTS.UWATERLOO.CA)
Tue, 1 Feb 1994 09:13:23 -0500

>On Mon, 31 Jan 1994, Read, Dwight ANTHRO wrote:

>> Graber writes:
>> "It never would have occurred to me to take M. Hill's "shared patterns of
>> behavior" to refer to *mental* phenomena, as D. Read has done."
Read Responds
>> Let me clarify my comment. If one is looking at "patterns of behavior"
>> there may be not need to make reference to menatl phenomena; but the
>> statement was "SHARED patterns of behavior" and I took SHARED not to mean
>> "coincidentally similar" but an actual attribute of the behavior. Thus if
>> the behavior is not genetically driven (e.g., shared genes could lead to
>> shared behavior) then the basis for the "sharing" would be at a mental
level. >

Let me assure Read that my meaning was patterns which are observably
similar (Coincidentally adds another set of questions). That these
behavioural similarities relate to something happening in the heads
of the behaviours is probably in most cases a reasonable assumption,
but in an overwhelming majority of anthropological studies it is an
assumption, not a conclusion. (Does anybody know of an ethnographer
who only studies those phenomena which he can demonstrate to be the
result of shared (as opposed to equifinal) mental processes or only those
which he has determined were learned in a social situation?

(Just to avoid some potential byways- I regard speech as behaviour.
Having attended many committee meetings, I am not convinced that
it necessarily has anything mental behind it.)

For many purposes the mentalistic or the learning or the social
stipulation for culture may be acceptable. There are certainly cases
in which they ought to be treated as problems. These may include
perhaps the first 95% of documented cultural evolution, taking the Hadar
artifacts as the first documentation.

A couple of questions on points raised by others.

Does Read extend the notion of mental to include the kinaesthetic?.
It seems to me that kinaesthetic learning is far more important in
many physical activities - From stone chipping to hand-writing -than
is learning concepts. I would wager that a silent and signless
flint-knapping school would be far more effective than one taught by the
lecture method.

The dog's learning is not cultural? Perhaps- But surely the dog itself
is cultural. The treatment of the dog as a companion is cultural. The
teaching of Tricks is cultural, the delight in the dog's behaviour is
cultural. What is it precisely that is left that is non-cultural?
And what if it were not a dog? If the dog and the owner are not
participants in 'a' culture, what of Washoe and the Gardners?
I seem to recall hearing or reading that Washoe had taught some of
what she learned in the experimental situation to other chimps.
'A' chimp culture? A Gardner-Chimp-Chimp learning tradition which
is only para-cultural? And how many chimpanzees can sign on the head
of a pin?

And for he who felt that all these problems were resolved in the after-
class discussions at the pub, you obviously only went once. The
resolutions of the following week were different.