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Summary: Animal Cognition

Do animals have something like human consciousness? Gallup did classic research showing that apes could recognize their own images in a mirror.

The research was criticized in various ways, but it stimulated a lot of follow-up studies. Many species pass the mirror test, including the great apes, porpoises, and orcas.

Most animals are intelligent in specialized ways. Bees are exceptionally good at mapping the location of pollen sources and conveying this information to other bees in the hive. They use the "waggle dance" first identified by Von Frisch and confirmed using robot bees.

Chimps, our closest relatives among non-human primates, are capable of many forms of complex cognition. Often they perform cognitive tasks in ways that are strikingly similar to humans.

In famous experiments, chimps were taught to use sign language to label objects. They never did learn to generate grammatical sentences as well as a two year old human.

Chimps also show human-like emotions on occasion, as illustrated by stories by researchers like Yerkes and Terrace. Such anecdotes provide a stimulus for future research and for enriching our understanding of animals.

Write to Dr. Dewey at

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