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Thread: what makes us "human"

  1. #1 what makes us "human" 
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    It's a fairly general question, but ocnsider the following suggestions:

    we as humans are remarkably "more mathematical" than other species.

    we as humans would appear to be exclusively mathematical compared to the other species.

    we as humans would appear to use our mathematical ability to reconstruct space-time, our natural environment, compared to other species.

    Is it possible then that we, as humans, have an "inherent" mathematical code of perception, of being conscious, an intrinsic mathematical code central to our perception-ability?


    Now, if that's not enough for starters, what about the following:

    is it possible that the human "jungle", according to our seemingly exclusive ability of being mathematical, is in fact a virtual mathematical jungle we use to conduct our own warfare on one another, a mathematical labyrinth of judgment, of logical judgment, we use to conduct our own conflict with one another upon, "Gods game"?


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  3. #2  
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    Could you explain the mathematics that a bat uses in order to catch it's prey? it may not realise it is using maths but there is one hell of a complex constantly evolving set of equations going on.

    We define ourselves as humans, nodody or nothing else does, it's rather like some child saying "I an a genius" so what?

    we are an organism that has a achieved a level of domination on our planet not previously seen for 65 million years, and eventually we will become a cosmological parasite, God help the universe if we ever leave our solar system!

    A second argument might be "Man invented mathematics to explain in his terms his world" so of course maths is not consciously used by any other species.
    Birds fly, they may look at us as inferior because we are restricted to the ground.
    Bugs rule the world, they are the largest portion of the biomass (I read somewhere) some can even survive within a nuclear reactor.

    It happens we have a thing we call intelligence, we define 'better' to suit ourselves only in that way are we 'better' than other creatures, because we say so.

    Now step outside and look down on earth and what do you see....

    A pride of lions in Africa basking in the sunshine wandering around killing and eating the occasional prey for sustenance.

    THen you espy an enormous number of beings raping and destroying both their and the habitat of others which do you think is the most clever (oh shit another human defined word, animals will never win this argument....


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  4. #3  
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    One Liner:

    Animals don't copy each other. We do.

    I saw that somewhere once but I've looked on the Internet for it and can't find it.
    "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe". - Carl Sagan
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  5. #4 Re: what makes us "human" 
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    Quote Originally Posted by streamSystems
    It's a fairly general question, but ocnsider the following suggestions:

    we as humans are remarkably "more mathematical" than other species.

    we as humans would appear to be exclusively mathematical compared to the other species.

    we as humans would appear to use our mathematical ability to reconstruct space-time, our natural environment, compared to other species.

    Is it possible then that we, as humans, have an "inherent" mathematical code of perception, of being conscious, an intrinsic mathematical code central to our perception-ability?
    What on earth do you mean by "more mathematical?" Yes, we are probably the only species capable of consciously carrying out complex mathematical questions - but this is a result of our brains, brains which are only different from those of other animals by degree. If there is any math inherent in our brains it is also present in other animals, just to a lesser degree.

    Subconsciously, we most certainly don't use math differently than any other animals do. When we catch a ball that is thrown to us, it isn't because we subconsciously calculated a parabolic equation. It's because we've learned through experience that a ball thrown at us will travel in a certain way and by watching it as it moves we can estimate where it will land and where to catch it. This is the same way animals "use" math. A lion, though experience, learns it's own speed, the speed of it's prey, and how close it needs to get before it will be able to overtake it's prey in a flat out run. It's brain isn't going through any actual velocity equations.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
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    Quote Originally Posted by svwillmer
    One Liner:

    Animals don't copy each other. We do.

    I saw that somewhere once but I've looked on the Internet for it and can't find it.
    That's incorrect. Animals do copy each other. Offspring copy their mothers. Cultural patterns of behavior have been seen to pass through primate groups.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
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    No, I guess you guys are right after all, namely that there is nothing outstanding about human behavior other than how pathetic we all are.

    Sure, each species has it's virtues, but as Megabrain points out, well, we're just as good as the rest of them. Heck, even Bats have our mathematical ability.

    Well done. Thank you for pointing that out. I going off to get a pet bat to teach me calculus. Maybe one of them vampire bats, right?



    Oh, Megabrain, so I assume you would agree that the united federation of planets should decline humanity's proposal for artificial-gravity space-flight?



    If any of you are still guessing what my point is, after refuting/challenging your deviations from the subject I posted, how none of you saw the point, the point I was making was quite intelligent, believe it or not, namely that we as humans could possess a highly advanced mathematical ability to the point that wandering disinterested and mildly amused space-alien observor would remark that it distinguishes us, apart from all the rotten stuff, from the other species.

    Maybe?

    It would be nice to focus on this point, and not have a moderator like Ophiolite come along and suggest it belongs in another subject.
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    The bat or catching a ball, is refined by information being fed into a computer (our brain) from eyes image and stereoscopic data, sense of balance, etc the brain then 'on the fly' constantly corrects the position of the body. Yes some we learn by practice, these are thought of as the constants but each time you catch a ball it is in a different set of circumstances (however slight).

    From a black box point of view the brain is carrying out a set of complex mathematical equations.

    As I understand it, the observation is that we can catch a ball, the hypothesis is that the brain is performing a set of calculations,
    Experiment shows that we can catch the ball and we can use maths to predict where we are going to catch it, time after time after time, this results in the theory that the brain does indeed perform mathematics.
    That does not mean it does, it only means that theory says it does!

    If I can find a paper on it I'll reference it.

    http://www.mathematicalbrain.com/int01.html

    Have a read....
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    Thanks.

    I'll read it when I get to school.
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    And so you should, you may find it partially supports you.
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    Supports me?

    Are you sure?

    How?

    As most people don't know what I am on about, what should I be looking for, Megabrain?
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  12. #11  
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    From the paper
    "So you think you're bad at maths? Meet Charles, he has a normal IQ and a university degree yet has problems telling whether 5 is bigger than 3. And what about Signora Gaddi, an Italian woman who hears and sees normally but, following a stroke, is deaf and blind to all numbers above 4? "

    Now we know animals don't count (excuse the pun) so there you have possible support for your original post that we "as humans are remarkably more mathematical than animals".

    Eithre that or I have missed the point, not unusual at this time of day.
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    Wow.

    Thanks.
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Megabrain
    Now we know animals don't count (excuse the pun) so there you have possible support for your original post that we "as humans are remarkably more mathematical than animals".
    I would disagree with that. Monkeys can "order numerosities" - aka, count.

    I say again, as I say all the time, in all probability there is nothing that humans have that is not also present in other animals, but to a different degree.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by paralith
    Quote Originally Posted by svwillmer
    One Liner:

    Animals don't copy each other. We do.

    I saw that somewhere once but I've looked on the Internet for it and can't find it.
    That's incorrect. Animals do copy each other. Offspring copy their mothers. Cultural patterns of behavior have been seen to pass through primate groups.
    Well monkeys don't. I've seen evidence for this but unfortuantley can't find it .
    "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe". - Carl Sagan
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by svwillmer
    Quote Originally Posted by paralith
    Quote Originally Posted by svwillmer
    One Liner:

    Animals don't copy each other. We do.

    I saw that somewhere once but I've looked on the Internet for it and can't find it.
    That's incorrect. Animals do copy each other. Offspring copy their mothers. Cultural patterns of behavior have been seen to pass through primate groups.
    Well monkeys don't. I've seen evidence for this but unfortuantley can't find it .
    look up macaques and food washing. There is a relatively popular example of the habit of washing food before eating it that spread to multiple members of a macaque troop. It wasn't a huge spread, but it was a spread nonetheless.

    Well here, I found one for you. link

    Other examples include individual captive chimps learning how to open a complex food box, and other individuals in the troop copying that individual and learning how to open the box in the same way.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
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    Quote Originally Posted by paralith
    Other examples include individual captive chimps learning how to open a complex food box, and other individuals in the troop copying that individual and learning how to open the box in the same way.
    Still controversial though. I just re-read Cousins, the book of the programme and they point out:


    1. In the case of the Japanese manaques and the food washing, one clever individual initiated the behaviour and the rest may have copied her, or may simply have been following her into the water and rediscovered the washing for themselves. Observation, and Ockham's razor, appear to support the latter hypothesis.

    2. With regard to simian culture, certainly, cultural behaviours can pass down through the generations but again, copying (in, say, the memetic sense) is not necessarily the only way by which they can acquire those skills. Chimp young in the wild, for instance, certainly learn to use the same tools and techniques as their mothers (fishing for termites, cracking nuts on stones and so on) but it is again a moot point as to whether or not they are acquiring them independently, as it were, or genuinely attempting to copy. Bear in mind that the acquisition of the skill seems to take many attempts and a fair deal of time, most of it spent focusing on the task, rather than observing the mother doing it.

    Having said which, I am entirely open-minded to the idea that a genuine form of copying behaviour can exist in non-human animals - primates, cetaceans and others: I just do not know if it is yet an established fact.

    cheer

    shanks
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  18. #17 Re: what makes us "human" 
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    Quote Originally Posted by streamSystems
    It's a fairly general question, but ocnsider the following suggestions:

    we as humans are remarkably "more mathematical" than other species.

    we as humans would appear to be exclusively mathematical compared to the other species.

    we as humans would appear to use our mathematical ability to reconstruct space-time, our natural environment, compared to other species.

    Is it possible then that we, as humans, have an "inherent" mathematical code of perception, of being conscious, an intrinsic mathematical code central to our perception-ability?


    Now, if that's not enough for starters, what about the following:

    is it possible that the human "jungle", according to our seemingly exclusive ability of being mathematical, is in fact a virtual mathematical jungle we use to conduct our own warfare on one another, a mathematical labyrinth of judgment, of logical judgment, we use to conduct our own conflict with one another upon, "Gods game"?
    You seem to be sold on mathematics.

    Mathematics is just another language.

    All the material benefits we have are copied from the animals that did requires some math to develope the final product.
    But the initial stages of these copies required 'trial and error' corrections, rather than math.

    A picture is worth a 1000 words as the saying goes. So a picture teaches us much more than any math can.

    I just posted an article in the Cosmology secter on the 'theory of everything'. So here, there was no need for mathematics.

    Our evolutionary origin was started by a chance occurance where a trapped Chimpanzee saw a tree branch nearby and picked it up to use as a spear.
    Needless to say, the predator left the scene rather than get a face full of leaves and twigs rammed into his face.
    So than this tree branch evolved into a spear by evolving into deadlier weapons through time.

    The industrial revoluition started when the Romans used the African Pygmies idea of propelling a dart to substiture the black powder as a propellent in a metal tube to start a future weapons development that made us the deadliest predators on the planet

    The internal combustion engine also evolved from this idea of propulsion to start the industrial revoluition. So you see here that math played a small part in the beginning of our material comforts.

    Cosmo
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  19. #18  
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    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrio
    Quote Originally Posted by paralith
    Other examples include individual captive chimps learning how to open a complex food box, and other individuals in the troop copying that individual and learning how to open the box in the same way.
    Still controversial though. I just re-read Cousins, the book of the programme and they point out:


    1. In the case of the Japanese manaques and the food washing, one clever individual initiated the behaviour and the rest may have copied her, or may simply have been following her into the water and rediscovered the washing for themselves. Observation, and Ockham's razor, appear to support the latter hypothesis.

    2. With regard to simian culture, certainly, cultural behaviours can pass down through the generations but again, copying (in, say, the memetic sense) is not necessarily the only way by which they can acquire those skills. Chimp young in the wild, for instance, certainly learn to use the same tools and techniques as their mothers (fishing for termites, cracking nuts on stones and so on) but it is again a moot point as to whether or not they are acquiring them independently, as it were, or genuinely attempting to copy. Bear in mind that the acquisition of the skill seems to take many attempts and a fair deal of time, most of it spent focusing on the task, rather than observing the mother doing it.

    Having said which, I am entirely open-minded to the idea that a genuine form of copying behaviour can exist in non-human animals - primates, cetaceans and others: I just do not know if it is yet an established fact.

    cheer

    shanks
    I did a quick search and found a summary of some research done on chimpanzees and children that actually seems to support both sides: link

    Researchers showed chimpanzees an opaque box with food in it, and showed them how to open it, except they included steps that were unnecessary, like tapping the top of the box with a stick. The chimps copied their every move to open the box. So clearly non-human primates can copy other individuals. When doing the same thing with a transparent box where the chimps could see that the extra steps weren't needed to unlock the mechanism, they skipped them.

    Human children, on the other hand, will copy all of the adult researcher's motions even if they can see that some of the steps are unnecessary. It would seem that they're more hardwired to copy than they are to go straight for the goal.

    Ah, here's the study I was thinking of earlier. Researchers showed two chimpanzees a food box that could be opened in two different ways - but only showed one way to each chimp. After that, each chimp was observed by another, and the observers always opened the box in the same way as the individual before them opened it. Pretty clear copying.

    I understand your points that copying isn't the only method of learning in the wild; clearly copying is more important in humans that is in chimps, but it most certainly does occur in non-human primates. Once again, it's a matter of degree.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by paralith
    I understand your points that copying isn't the only method of learning in the wild; clearly copying is more important in humans that is in chimps, but it most certainly does occur in non-human primates. Once again, it's a matter of degree.
    Fair do's. :-D
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    look up macaques and food washing.
    I saw this on "Be the Creature" with Japanese macaques. I remember them commenting on how the others are copying one macaque, but I can't remember if they showed it first or if it figured it out for itself.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

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  22. #21 Re: what makes us "human" 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cosmo
    Quote Originally Posted by streamSystems
    It's a fairly general question, but ocnsider the following suggestions:

    we as humans are remarkably "more mathematical" than other species.

    we as humans would appear to be exclusively mathematical compared to the other species.

    we as humans would appear to use our mathematical ability to reconstruct space-time, our natural environment, compared to other species.

    Is it possible then that we, as humans, have an "inherent" mathematical code of perception, of being conscious, an intrinsic mathematical code central to our perception-ability?


    Now, if that's not enough for starters, what about the following:

    is it possible that the human "jungle", according to our seemingly exclusive ability of being mathematical, is in fact a virtual mathematical jungle we use to conduct our own warfare on one another, a mathematical labyrinth of judgment, of logical judgment, we use to conduct our own conflict with one another upon, "Gods game"?
    You seem to be sold on mathematics.

    Mathematics is just another language.

    All the material benefits we have are copied from the animals that did requires some math to develope the final product.
    But the initial stages of these copies required 'trial and error' corrections, rather than math.

    A picture is worth a 1000 words as the saying goes. So a picture teaches us much more than any math can.

    I just posted an article in the Cosmology secter on the 'theory of everything'. So here, there was no need for mathematics.

    Our evolutionary origin was started by a chance occurance where a trapped Chimpanzee saw a tree branch nearby and picked it up to use as a spear.
    Needless to say, the predator left the scene rather than get a face full of leaves and twigs rammed into his face.
    So than this tree branch evolved into a spear by evolving into deadlier weapons through time.

    The industrial revoluition started when the Romans used the African Pygmies idea of propelling a dart to substiture the black powder as a propellent in a metal tube to start a future weapons development that made us the deadliest predators on the planet

    The internal combustion engine also evolved from this idea of propulsion to start the industrial revoluition. So you see here that math played a small part in the beginning of our material comforts.

    Cosmo

    Fair call.

    As any mathematician in this forum would know, I know nothing about mathematics.
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    Quote Originally Posted by paralith

    What on earth do you mean by "more mathematical?" Yes, we are probably the only species capable of consciously carrying out complex mathematical questions - but this is a result of our brains, brains which are only different from those of other animals by degree. If there is any math inherent in our brains it is also present in other animals, just to a lesser degree.

    The difference between humans and other animals is the ability to manipulate symbols, a basic requirement for all things mathematical.

    Things that we seem to do quite easily as humans have, as yet, not been demonstrated in other species.

    For example, you could teach a human the relationships: A=B and B=C, and most of us would, without additional training, come to the conclusion that B also =A, C=B. and also that A=C. No research that I’m aware of has shown conclusively that any animal can manipulate symbolic relationships in such a manner, and research has been conducted on quite a few species.

    Behaviours such as those seen in ape language studies, where they seem to be able to manipulate symbols very well, is because each relationship has to be taught individually i.e. They may be taught that if someone holds up a triangle they choose a picture of a circle, but won’t react by giving a triangle to someone who holds up a circle unless they have been explicitly taught to do so.

    Humans “automatically” reverse such relationships…well those with functioning language do anyway. Whether this ability is “hard wired”/inherent or is just a result of our learning processes is still subject to debate. I favour the latter explanation.


    Quote Originally Posted by svwillmer

    Animals don't copy each other. We do.

    I saw that somewhere once but I've looked on the Internet for it and can't find it.

    Of course they copy each other…here’s a nice little overview about the subject

    http://www.pigeon.psy.tufts.edu/avc/zentall/default.htm
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  24. #23  
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    Quote Originally Posted by hmmm
    Quote Originally Posted by paralith

    What on earth do you mean by "more mathematical?" Yes, we are probably the only species capable of consciously carrying out complex mathematical questions - but this is a result of our brains, brains which are only different from those of other animals by degree. If there is any math inherent in our brains it is also present in other animals, just to a lesser degree.

    The difference between humans and other animals is the ability to manipulate symbols, a basic requirement for all things mathematical.

    Things that we seem to do quite easily as humans have, as yet, not been demonstrated in other species.

    For example, you could teach a human the relationships: A=B and B=C, and most of us would, without additional training, come to the conclusion that B also =A, C=B. and also that A=C. No research that I’m aware of has shown conclusively that any animal can manipulate symbolic relationships in such a manner, and research has been conducted on quite a few species.

    Behaviours such as those seen in ape language studies, where they seem to be able to manipulate symbols very well, is because each relationship has to be taught individually i.e. They may be taught that if someone holds up a triangle they choose a picture of a circle, but won’t react by giving a triangle to someone who holds up a circle unless they have been explicitly taught to do so.

    Humans “automatically” reverse such relationships…well those with functioning language do anyway. Whether this ability is “hard wired”/inherent or is just a result of our learning processes is still subject to debate. I favour the latter explanation.
    I agree that humans are most likely the only species that can symbolically represent relationships between objects - e.g., through language. However, animals still have mental representations of relational networks.

    Diana monkeys, for example, will react the same way to a leopard growl as they will to another monkey's leopard alarm call, two acoustically distinct sounds. Male alarm calls are also acoustically different than female alarm calls, but each recognizes the other's as well as their own. However, if they hear a leopard growl soon after hearing a leopard alarm call, they do not react a second time, because they're receiving the same information that they already know. We know this because they will still react to an eagle screech soon after hearing a leopard alarm; they know that this is new information.

    So if A = leopard growl and B = male leopard alarm call and C = female leopard alarm call, Diana monkeys may not be able to explain this relationship as A=B and B=A etc, but they do understand that all these acoustically different sounds represent the same general idea.

    I'm currently reading the book Baboon Metaphysics; The Evolution of a Social Mind by Cheney and Seyfarth, and they explore these ideas in depth - that's where I'm getting this example from.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
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    Quote Originally Posted by paralith
    .


    I agree that humans are most likely the only species that can symbolically represent relationships between objects - e.g., through language. However, animals still have mental representations of relational networks.
    As to whether they have “mental representations” of such networks…depends what you mean by that term, it’s one that’s thrown around a lot by cognitive psychologists with little real explanatory power. Does it mean they have merely built connections between stimulus and response or does it mean that they are able to manipulate ideas in their minds. I don’t think your example describes the latter.


    You’re describing an animal’s ability to discriminate sounds and the associations they have LEARNED to make between them.

    Animals can have seemingly complex relational networks, no doubt, the point is that they acquire the individual relationships that make up this complexity one by one possibly from observation of other monkey’s behaviour or just a generalisation of response that has been refined by trial and error.

    What I was trying to get over was not that they are unable to form relationships such as A=B and B=A etc, it’s just that each of these elements that they show evidence of “understanding” has been individually learned in some manner.

    Humans, on the other hand, have the ability to derive new relationships from existing ones without the necessity for extra observation or explicit training.
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    Humans, on the other hand, have the ability to derive new relationships from existing ones without the necessity for extra observation or explicit training.
    That’s because this training takes place in the first few years of life. That is, I think in the first few years of life we learn some mechanisms in the brain for processing information. When we observe something, it gets interpreted by this mechanism to judge how best to conventionalize the stimulus. A large part of this mechanism is built on association. I think this basic idea is something present in a good many organisms. It only differs in humans in complexity and the degrees that conscious analysis is employed. An added dimension to the concept formed after having gone through the process, is the anticipation of vocalizing them later on.
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  27. #26  
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    Quote Originally Posted by hmmm
    As to whether they have “mental representations” of such networks…depends what you mean by that term, it’s one that’s thrown around a lot by cognitive psychologists with little real explanatory power. Does it mean they have merely built connections between stimulus and response or does it mean that they are able to manipulate ideas in their minds. I don’t think your example describes the latter.
    Let me just establish first that I'm not trying to say non-human primates can achieve the exact same kind of cognition that humans can - only that the precursors for human-like cognition are most certainly present in our primate relatives.

    So, are monkeys capable of actively contemplating what they do and do not know? Most probably not. There are studies to suggest that they can have varying degrees of certainty about their own knowledge, but whether they consciously contemplate it, or as you say manipulate ideas in their minds, is highly doubtful.

    But their mental representations do share some basic characteristics as those of humans; and yes, mental representation is a somewhat fuzzy term as its exact physical nature isn't completely understood, but we do know that a mental representation of a given object is a network of information about the object that is grouped together based on past experiences of that object. When a rhesus monkey hears a call from a conspecific, both auditory and visual areas of their brain light up in an fMRI, as well as areas related to memory storage. Monkeys will also categorize the calls that they hear based on the "meaning" of the call, based on the information the call contains, and not the sound of the call. These are all characteristics seen in humans as well. You say "merely" as though these representational networks are unimportant to human thought, and they are not.

    You’re describing an animal’s ability to discriminate sounds and the associations they have LEARNED to make between them.

    Animals can have seemingly complex relational networks, no doubt, the point is that they acquire the individual relationships that make up this complexity one by one possibly from observation of other monkey’s behaviour or just a generalisation of response that has been refined by trial and error.

    What I was trying to get over was not that they are unable to form relationships such as A=B and B=A etc, it’s just that each of these elements that they show evidence of “understanding” has been individually learned in some manner.
    Is that so very different from how humans learn? What is a human infant first learning language doing but learning to discriminate between different sound-object associations? As that human child grows older and more fully learns human languages, then they are definitely going beyond what non-human primates are capable - but as Kalster suggested, a good deal of the initial learning a human child goes through is based on the same ability to conceptualize objects and the relationships between them (prior to learning language) that monkeys also possess.

    Humans, on the other hand, have the ability to derive new relationships from existing ones without the necessity for extra observation or explicit training.
    On this point, I'm not entirely sure that no non-human primate has ever demonstrably achieved this. I vaguely remember a study with chimpanzees that might have shown otherwise, but I'm going to have to look for it. Humans are better at this, and to a much more complex degree, to be sure, but I want to do some more research on the subject.
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    paralith wrote:
    Let me just establish first that I'm not trying to say non-human
    primates can achieve the exact same kind of cognition that humans can - only that the precursors for human-like cognition are most certainly present in our primate relatives.
    Many precursors but not all…..I’ll come to that.


    Monkeys will also categorize the calls that they hear based on the "meaning" of the call, based on the information the call contains, and not the sound of the call. These are all characteristics seen in humans as well. You say "merely" as though these representational networks are unimportant to human thought, and they are not.
    I didn’t use “merely” to mean unimportant, but to suggest that a unidirectional stimulus-response explanation would be a “simpler” description of their learning rather than talk in terms of manipulating mental representations etc, which is more descriptive of how humans who have developed language process information.

    Similarly, to say they categorise is debatable, a simpler explanation is that they have learned to react in certain ways to certain stimuli. The word categorise implies some kind of mental organisation that I’m not convinced exists in monkeys.

    But I’ll agree that the same simple learning mechanisms that animals have are important in much of human learning too.

    Is that so very different from how humans learn? What is a human infant first learning language doing but learning to discriminate between different sound-object associations?

    Many things are similar and many things are different. For example, when you teach a non-verbal child a simple object -> word or
    word ->object relationship, there’s a lot more going on than when you teach the same relationship to an ape. The child will have joint regard with the person teaching, will follow pointing fingers, will attempt to echo the word heard….many things that apes just do not do, and which all are the building blocks that make comprehension of a word/object relation and later production of the relation come together in a seemingly automatic way. This coming together of comprehension and production of language is what is necessary to develop more complicated cognitive behaviours such as categorising and other symbolic use of language and objects.

    Apes and other animals never combine comprehension and production of the words they are taught, unless these relationships are taught separately, and although they have been shown to be very efficient learners of word and object relations, in some cases much better than human children, there are huge differences in the social qualities of the interactions.

    If you want to compare human and other primate language learning, a closer comparison might be found if you compare them with autistic children who also deficient in both the social aspects of language acquisition and the ability to manipulate things symbolically.



    On this point, I'm not entirely sure that no non-human primate has ever demonstrably achieved this. I vaguely remember a study with chimpanzees that might have shown otherwise, but I'm going to have to look for it.
    None that I’m aware of, although some studies have claimed they’ve found this and then were ripped apart as although the researchers believed they were finding new relationships when dodgy methodology meant they were actually training the relationships themselves. But I’d be interested if you find something recent on the subject.
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  29. #28  
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    Quote Originally Posted by hmmm
    [ I didn’t use “merely” to mean unimportant, but to suggest that a unidirectional stimulus-response explanation would be a “simpler” description of their learning rather than talk in terms of manipulating mental representations etc, which is more descriptive of how humans who have developed language process information.

    Similarly, to say they categorise is debatable, a simpler explanation is that they have learned to react in certain ways to certain stimuli. The word categorise implies some kind of mental organisation that I’m not convinced exists in monkeys.

    But I’ll agree that the same simple learning mechanisms that animals have are important in much of human learning too.
    Let me elaborate on some of the studies I mentioned earlier - I believe they strongly suggest that humans and non-human primates process information in a very similar way.

    In fMRI studies done on humans, there is growing evidence that we encode object words in our brains (e.g., form mental representations of that object and its associated word) via a neural network. Color information is stored by the brain region associated with color perception, information on how an object moves is stored by the brain region that perceives motion, and so on. This network gets activated every time we hear the word for that object - e.g., you hear the word "car" and all the distributed information you have about what "car" means gets activated in all the different areas of your brain - you can visualize it, you can hear what it sounds like.

    Like I mentioned earlier, there is also evidence to show that monkeys' brains get activated in very similar ways in response to different objects/concepts. A monkey hearing another monkey's voice will get brain activation in auditory and visual areas, especially areas that respond specifically to the faces and voices of other conspecifics. There will also be specific responses in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vPFC) - an area of the brain that classifies stimuli - that categorizes them. Calls that are acoustically different from each other but that all pertain to feeding will elicit similar responses in vPFC, but other call types will elicit different responses. I think this is pretty strong support that monkeys do categorize incoming stimuli - at the very least, incoming vocalizations.

    Many things are similar and many things are different. For example, when you teach a non-verbal child a simple object -> word or
    word ->object relationship, there’s a lot more going on than when you teach the same relationship to an ape. The child will have joint regard with the person teaching, will follow pointing fingers, will attempt to echo the word heard….many things that apes just do not do, and which all are the building blocks that make comprehension of a word/object relation and later production of the relation come together in a seemingly automatic way. This coming together of comprehension and production of language is what is necessary to develop more complicated cognitive behaviours such as categorising and other symbolic use of language and objects.

    Apes and other animals never combine comprehension and production of the words they are taught, unless these relationships are taught separately, and although they have been shown to be very efficient learners of word and object relations, in some cases much better than human children, there are huge differences in the social qualities of the interactions.

    If you want to compare human and other primate language learning, a closer comparison might be found if you compare them with autistic children who also deficient in both the social aspects of language acquisition and the ability to manipulate things symbolically.
    There is definitely a large disconnect between the number of word/vocalization-object associations non-human animals are able to learn, and the number of specific vocalizations they can produce. Like I discussed above, this is likely because the way that humans and other primates perceive vocalizations, the way they understand the information being conveyed to them, is very similar - but the mechanisms that allow humans to go on to produce full blown language (in order to "send out" information) were probably mostly developed in the hominid lineage.

    Both humans and other primates possess a "language of thought" that is different from "natural languages," aka what humans normally call languages - English, etc. Before you can learn a word for an object, you have to be able to conceptualize that object - you have to be able to understand people events, objects, different categories, the relationships between these things, etc, before you can learn a vocalization that represents them. Both animals and human infants clearly have thoughts of some kind without/before learning a natural language, and they do so with the language of thought. The language of thought hypothesis of language evolution, then, is that conceptual knowledge of objects and their causal relationships existed first, and natural languages (and the ability to learn/use them) evolved to convey this knowledge to other individuals.

    And that's where the social element that you mentioned comes in - another thing that non-human primates largely lack compared to humans is a theory of mind - in other words, understanding that another individual's mental state/content can be different then your own. Humans are capable of very complex social interactions because we can in effect "read minds." We can evaluate what another person knows and is feeling compared to ourselves. Primates, for the most part, do not. By making calls and vocalizations to other individuals, they want to influence that individual's behavior, but do not necessarily understand that the other individual may not know the same things they know.

    But humans communicate to each other in order to change another person's mental content - to give them information they didn't have before. As you say, a human child knows that when an adult makes a sound and points/looks at an object, the adult intends to inform the child that this is the word for the object. This ability was probably essential to learning how to produce language, as it allows for the quick build up of a very large vocabulary.

    In my view, it's not perception and information processing that are so vastly different between humans and non-primates (except, as I always say, for a difference in degree), but the learning and production of language that are more qualitatively different between them.

    None that I’m aware of, although some studies have claimed they’ve found this and then were ripped apart as although the researchers believed they were finding new relationships when dodgy methodology meant they were actually training the relationships themselves. But I’d be interested if you find something recent on the subject.
    I will still work on finding something, though I've had no luck so far. I'm not giving up just yet!
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    paralith wrote:
    Let me elaborate on some of the studies I mentioned earlier - I believe they strongly suggest that humans and non-human primates process information in a very similar way.

    In fMRI studies done on humans, there is growing evidence that we encode object words in our brains (e.g., form mental representations of that object and its associated word) via a neural network. Color information is stored by the brain region associated with color perception, information on how an object moves is stored by the brain region that perceives motion, and so on. This network gets activated every time we hear the word for that object - e.g., you hear the word "car" and all the distributed information you have about what "car" means gets activated in all the different areas of your brain - you can visualize it, you can hear what it sounds like.

    Like I mentioned earlier, there is also evidence to show that monkeys' brains get activated in very similar ways in response to different objects/concepts. A monkey hearing another monkey's voice will get brain activation in auditory and visual areas, especially areas that respond specifically to the faces and voices of other conspecifics. There will also be specific responses in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vPFC) - an area of the brain that classifies stimuli - that categorizes them. Calls that are acoustically different from each other but that all pertain to feeding will elicit similar responses in vPFC, but other call types will elicit different responses. I think this is pretty strong support that monkeys do categorize incoming stimuli - at the very least, incoming vocalizations.
    I think we’re at cross purposes here about exactly what I mean by categorisation. I’ve been talking about the ability to categorise things in a symbolic way and it seems that you’re providing evidence that show that humans and animals “categorise” similarly in a non-symbolic manner, i.e. develop associations and generalisations between things, which is something I have no problem accepting.

    I’m not saying animals don’t categorise at all, or that similar areas of the brain don’t light up in both species when they do. I’m saying they have only be found to be capable of categorising in a non-symbolic way
    Non symbolic categorisation is quite low level behaviour (for want of a better term) and is the way in which we group things together based on similarity or by learning they have a common function or association, i.e different stimuli can produce the same response. Of course animals and humans both have this ability, it’s a necessary skill for survival, if only on the simplest terms of grouping what’s safe and what’s dangerous.

    It’s sort of on the level of when a young child learns the word “dog”, then suddenly everything with four legs or is furry suddenly gets called “dog” too. It’s categorising by generalisation only.

    Symbolic categorisation, which I’ve been talking about in this thread, is very different, it’s when stimuli that have no physical similarity or function get grouped together in classes. An example might be the written word “ball”, a picture of a “ball” and the sound “ball”. All are completely physically different, totally arbitrary stimuli, but to humans they all mean the same thing…different, yet equivalent. All are in the same class and can act as substitutes for each other, so that if someone picked up a real ball and asked what is this, writing the word ball, saying ball or pointing to a picture of a ball would all be a correct response.

    Humans deal with such arbitrary relationships on a day to day basis, but it might be fair to say that animals in their natural environment don’t, and have no need to, but the question is, could they? Experimental studies suggest that they can’t.

    To illustrate exactly what the differences are, I’ll give you an example which resembles the sort of tests that have been carried out…
    Take claims about teaching an ape to “read”. You could hold up a picture of a ball (A) and teach it to give you a piece of paper with the written word “ball” (B) on it, and do this with a 100 other pictures and words, and the ape could learn each of them successfully and with a high level of accuracy, leading a lay person (and some researchers!) to believe that it had learned to read. You could then train it so that when you said “ball” out loud (C), it would bring you the written word, ball (B), and the same for the other 100 pictures.

    This looks like extremely complex, human like behaviour, but when you test to see if symbolic categories have been formed by just providing the ape with the original pictures (A) and saying the word “ball”,(C) it wouldn’t be able to give the right picture. This is because they were never trained to associate the two A and C stimuli together. The three stimulii (picture A, written word B , sound C) haven’t formed a symbolic class, they remain separate trained associations only. A typical adult human however, given the same training, would be able to pass the final test and automatically put all three stimuli into a symbolic class where each object could stand for the other. In other words they could derive a new relationship without being trained to do do, in this case the A->C relation.

    These basic symbolic relationships may seem trivial things when put simply, but they are the building blocks of complicated human-like cognition. Without such abilities to derive untrained/novel relations between things, we wouldn’t be able to become the creative humans that we are.

    It would be interesting to see fMRI studies that compare animal/human brains when they are in the process of doing such experimental tasks as I describe above. They haven’t been done yet as far as I know, but I’m sure there’d be some interesting differences.

    There is definitely a large disconnect between the number of word/vocalization-object associations non-human animals are able to learn, and the number of specific vocalizations they can produce. Like I discussed above, this is likely because the way that humans and other primates perceive vocalizations, the way they understand the information being conveyed to them, is very similar - but the mechanisms that allow humans to go on to produce full blown language (in order to "send out" information) were probably mostly developed in the hominid lineage.
    Again another confusion, when I speak about producing language, I don’t necessarily mean vocalisation, I mean producing a sign, touching a picture, offering an object etc. I’m talking about experiments that compare like with like, which evens the playing field and rarely use actual vocalisations. That would be as unproductive as asking English speakers to read Russian.


    Both humans and other primates possess a "language of thought" that is different from "natural languages," aka what humans normally call languages - English, etc. Before you can learn a word for an object, you have to be able to conceptualize that object - you have to be able to understand people events, objects, different categories, the relationships between these things, etc, before you can learn a vocalization that represents them…
    Yes and no. Prior to learning to speak fully, a human is learning and processing at a much lower level, There is no conceptualising, or understanding, or even thought as we know it before all the necessary elements to fully functioning human language are in place , there is just unconscious reacting and generalising. “Language of thought” is just a fancy way of saying a brain that is not yet capable of controlling what thoughts are at the forefront of our awareness, or instigating a thought process. Yes, building relationships between objects is going on, in the way I described earlier, but without any conscious control. We are reactors to the outer environment rather than organisms manipulating our inner environment – sort of being on automatic pilot. In short we are functioning cognitively and behaviourally in many ways that are closer to apes than adult humans…well at least till we reach the approximate age of 18 months.

    And although we’re in this sort of “similar to ape” state, it is the purely human things I mentioned earlier, the joint regard, pointing etc… that we’ve been developing and other animals have not, that at this age combine with our newly acquired ability to produce words that kickstart a whole range of other linguistic and cognitive abilities, such as symbolic use of language, a spurt in learning words, categorisation, object permanence, means-ends behaviour as well as the appearance of theory of mind and maybe even consciousness of self.

    It could be said that at the age of 18 months (ish) we change from ape-like behaviour into human behaviour, the question is how. You’ve been saying more or less that all the building blocks are there to do this in both apes and humans, but this does not appear to be so. Not because our brains are so different, but because the social element of early human development that is so necessary to later leaps in human cognition, is just not present in apes. (nor the autistic)


    And that's where the social element that you mentioned comes in - another thing that non-human primates largely lack compared to humans is a theory of mind - in other words, understanding that another individual's mental state/content can be different then your own. Humans are capable of very complex social interactions because we can in effect "read minds."
    No, I would reverse this relationship. We can “read minds” BECAUSE of our early complex social interactions (combined with the other things I mentioned) . ToM is one of those things that we see in humans only after, but contemporaneous with the 18 months “spurt”, and again is missing in those autistic humans for which the early social development has been missing. But once acquired ToM is one of those things that contribute to even more complex behaviour…yes, but it’s not a cause in itself which you seem to be suggesting.

    In my view, it's not perception and information processing that are so vastly different between humans and non-primates (except, as I always say, for a difference in degree), but the learning and production of language that are more qualitatively different between them.
    To me, and purely conjecture, there is very little that some primates need to make the evolutionary leap from ape to human-like cognition. The missing link is not so much a difference in brain size and structure etc. , but deficits in the social way we develop that might have lead to our divergence and the development of a more complicated brain in the first place. I can agree that early perception and processing are similar, but not post 18 months, when everything about us suddenly becomes hugely y different.

    To put it in extremely simplistic terms, my viewpoint is that adult apes and human infants are remarkably similar in most things, apes and human children(post 2 yrs) and adults are not. To compare just humans vs. apes in anything is misleading, we should be treating (research wise) apes, human adults and human infants almost as if they were three separate species and not two, as from a behavioural and cognitive perspective, they all act as if they are.

    I will still work on finding something, though I've had no luck so far. I'm not giving up just yet!
    I won’t hold my breath, but good on you for being persistent.
    and bad on you for making me type so much
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  31. #30  
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    Quote Originally Posted by hmmm
    I think we’re at cross purposes here about exactly what I mean by categorisation. I’ve been talking about the ability to categorise things in a symbolic way and it seems that you’re providing evidence that show that humans and animals “categorise” similarly in a non-symbolic manner, i.e. develop associations and generalisations between things, which is something I have no problem accepting.

    I’m not saying animals don’t categorise at all, or that similar areas of the brain don’t light up in both species when they do. I’m saying they have only be found to be capable of categorising in a non-symbolic way
    Non symbolic categorisation is quite low level behaviour (for want of a better term) and is the way in which we group things together based on similarity or by learning they have a common function or association, i.e different stimuli can produce the same response. Of course animals and humans both have this ability, it’s a necessary skill for survival, if only on the simplest terms of grouping what’s safe and what’s dangerous.

    It’s sort of on the level of when a young child learns the word “dog”, then suddenly everything with four legs or is furry suddenly gets called “dog” too. It’s categorising by generalisation only.

    Symbolic categorisation, which I’ve been talking about in this thread, is very different, it’s when stimuli that have no physical similarity or function get grouped together in classes. An example might be the written word “ball”, a picture of a “ball” and the sound “ball”. All are completely physically different, totally arbitrary stimuli, but to humans they all mean the same thing…different, yet equivalent. All are in the same class and can act as substitutes for each other, so that if someone picked up a real ball and asked what is this, writing the word ball, saying ball or pointing to a picture of a ball would all be a correct response.

    Humans deal with such arbitrary relationships on a day to day basis, but it might be fair to say that animals in their natural environment don’t, and have no need to, but the question is, could they? Experimental studies suggest that they can’t.

    To illustrate exactly what the differences are, I’ll give you an example which resembles the sort of tests that have been carried out…
    Take claims about teaching an ape to “read”. You could hold up a picture of a ball (A) and teach it to give you a piece of paper with the written word “ball” (B) on it, and do this with a 100 other pictures and words, and the ape could learn each of them successfully and with a high level of accuracy, leading a lay person (and some researchers!) to believe that it had learned to read. You could then train it so that when you said “ball” out loud (C), it would bring you the written word, ball (B), and the same for the other 100 pictures.

    This looks like extremely complex, human like behaviour, but when you test to see if symbolic categories have been formed by just providing the ape with the original pictures (A) and saying the word “ball”,(C) it wouldn’t be able to give the right picture. This is because they were never trained to associate the two A and C stimuli together. The three stimulii (picture A, written word B , sound C) haven’t formed a symbolic class, they remain separate trained associations only. A typical adult human however, given the same training, would be able to pass the final test and automatically put all three stimuli into a symbolic class where each object could stand for the other. In other words they could derive a new relationship without being trained to do do, in this case the A->C relation.

    These basic symbolic relationships may seem trivial things when put simply, but they are the building blocks of complicated human-like cognition. Without such abilities to derive untrained/novel relations between things, we wouldn’t be able to become the creative humans that we are.

    It would be interesting to see fMRI studies that compare animal/human brains when they are in the process of doing such experimental tasks as I describe above. They haven’t been done yet as far as I know, but I’m sure there’d be some interesting differences.
    I still have to say that assigning a monkey alarm call, that sounds nothing like a leopard and should for no qualitative reason represent a leopard, to the category of leopard is an arbitrary, abstract categorization. Not very different from using the arbitrary word "ball" to represent a spherical object. After all, putting the word ball and the written characters for the word and the object together all in the same mental network is still a learned association - a more complex one than a simple call-leopard association, but an association all the same.

    Though I haven't been able to find an exact example of non-human primates accomplishing the "...then A=C" kind of task, I did find tests that show they can make transitive inferences; if you teach monkeys and apes a ranked series pair by pair (A>B; B>C; C>D), they can easily rank some items even if the intervening ones in the series are missing (they will tell you that B>D). If you do the same with birds, they can only remember the relative ranks of adjacent pairs. I find it unsurprising that they can do this, since living in a ranked social group makes it very important to remember who outranks who. Also within an actual group, ranks aren't always stable; if there is a rank reversal/exchange between two individuals, the monkey will then be able to apply this new change in rank to all the other individuals in the troupe without having to actually see the newly ranked individuals interact with all the others. Extensive studies with baboons have shown this.

    You seem to be combining the "...then A=C" relationship reasoning with the ability to know complex symbolic representations. I think you are right non-human primates can't carry out the mental gymnastics to intermingle these two abilities (since if they could do that, they could have human-type languages), but I do think they have a lesser degree of each ability separately - especially in the specific ways that each ability applies to their ecology.


    Again another confusion, when I speak about producing language, I don’t necessarily mean vocalisation, I mean producing a sign, touching a picture, offering an object etc. I’m talking about experiments that compare like with like, which evens the playing field and rarely use actual vocalisations. That would be as unproductive as asking English speakers to read Russian.
    I'm a little confused - what do you mean, comparing like to like? As an example?


    Yes and no. Prior to learning to speak fully, a human is learning and processing at a much lower level, There is no conceptualising, or understanding, or even thought as we know it before all the necessary elements to fully functioning human language are in place , there is just unconscious reacting and generalising. “Language of thought” is just a fancy way of saying a brain that is not yet capable of controlling what thoughts are at the forefront of our awareness, or instigating a thought process. Yes, building relationships between objects is going on, in the way I described earlier, but without any conscious control. We are reactors to the outer environment rather than organisms manipulating our inner environment – sort of being on automatic pilot. In short we are functioning cognitively and behaviourally in many ways that are closer to apes than adult humans…well at least till we reach the approximate age of 18 months.

    And although we’re in this sort of “similar to ape” state, it is the purely human things I mentioned earlier, the joint regard, pointing etc… that we’ve been developing and other animals have not, that at this age combine with our newly acquired ability to produce words that kickstart a whole range of other linguistic and cognitive abilities, such as symbolic use of language, a spurt in learning words, categorisation, object permanence, means-ends behaviour as well as the appearance of theory of mind and maybe even consciousness of self.

    It could be said that at the age of 18 months (ish) we change from ape-like behaviour into human behaviour, the question is how. You’ve been saying more or less that all the building blocks are there to do this in both apes and humans, but this does not appear to be so. Not because our brains are so different, but because the social element of early human development that is so necessary to later leaps in human cognition, is just not present in apes. (nor the autistic)
    haha, a little deja vous from the "first years of our lives" thread, eh? I think we mostly agree on this point. I'm not saying that non-human animals and newly born human infants have "thought as we [adult humans] know it." Like you say, their mental activities are not under conscious control - they can't think about their own knowledge, mentally time travel backwards and forwards, etc. And I wouldn't say that the "building blocks" are all there in apes; but the precursors. The "proto-building blocks," if you would - the elements that in hominids further evolved and changed to allow humans to have conscious mental activities as they do today.

    No, I would reverse this relationship. We can “read minds” BECAUSE of our early complex social interactions (combined with the other things I mentioned) . ToM is one of those things that we see in humans only after, but contemporaneous with the 18 months “spurt”, and again is missing in those autistic humans for which the early social development has been missing. But once acquired ToM is one of those things that contribute to even more complex behaviour…yes, but it’s not a cause in itself which you seem to be suggesting.
    Let me rephrase; during human evolution, our ancestors had a need to be able to think about the beliefs and knowledge of other individuals in their social group, as social life became more complex. It then became advantageous to evolve the ability to have a theory of mind, and once we did have theory of mind, our social interactions were able to become even more complicated.

    Also, human children don't really develop a complete theory of mind until they're about 4 years old; the traditional test it show a child a puppet show where Jane puts a cookie in a drawer, leaves the room, and another puppet Tom comes in and moves the cookie from the drawer to a cupboard. When Jane returns, the testers ask the child where she will look for her cookie. Younger children will point to the cupboards, since they know that's where the cookie is, and they don't yet understand that what others know is different from what they know. Older children who have a full developed theory of mind know that Jane will look for the cookie in the drawer where she left it. This development is gradual of course, and is preceded by a general understanding of the intentions of others (based on gaze direction or behavior) - which is something non-human primates can do as well.

    To me, and purely conjecture, there is very little that some primates need to make the evolutionary leap from ape to human-like cognition. The missing link is not so much a difference in brain size and structure etc. , but deficits in the social way we develop that might have lead to our divergence and the development of a more complicated brain in the first place. I can agree that early perception and processing are similar, but not post 18 months, when everything about us suddenly becomes hugely y different.

    To put it in extremely simplistic terms, my viewpoint is that adult apes and human infants are remarkably similar in most things, apes and human children(post 2 yrs) and adults are not. To compare just humans vs. apes in anything is misleading, we should be treating (research wise) apes, human adults and human infants almost as if they were three separate species and not two, as from a behavioural and cognitive perspective, they all act as if they are.
    In this, I agree completely. I think a theory of mind in particular, going together with the mental mechanisms required to attain it, is the primary difference that leads to a lot of the divergence between non-human primate and human cognition.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
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    paralith wrote:

    I still have to say that assigning a monkey alarm call, that sounds nothing like a leopard and should for no qualitative reason represent a leopard, to the category of leopard is an arbitrary, abstract categorization.
    There’s no evidence to suggest that any alarm call actually means “leopard” to the monkeys who are responding to the alarm, we are inflicting our interpretation of the word leopard on their behaviour. You’re being guilty of succumbing to the “Clever Hans effect” here and assuming a level of cognition that may not exist.

    In the same way saying “RUN” at a human because an axe wielding maniac is coming, or “DUCK” because a piano is dropping from above, do not mean that the words Run and Duck mean maniac and piano, it means when hear sound A run, when hear sound B drop to the ground. If I got enough of my friends in a crowd and shouted “BLEEB” at them and they all run off in a wild screaming panic, many people would join in, doesn’t imply they know the meaning of the word bleeb either, although with repetition their response might extinguish when no danger appeared, unlike the monkeys who’s behaviour would be maintained as something dangerous appears each time the alarm is made.

    All are former meaningless/arbitrary sounds that have been associated with performing a particular behaviour probably by observing others do it. It’s a simple conditioned response that shows that animals are capable of simple discriminations between sounds and whereas discrimination in itself a kind of categorisation, it’s abstract only in the sense that formerly disparate objects get related together but not in a symbolic way.
    If you think the monkey’s behaviour is truly symbolic, then please tell me why, as I’m not sure that you are grasping the difference here. The alarm call is a simple context bound reaction, the word “duck” to a human is not as it has multiple meanings in different contexts, i.e. we have learned to use it symbolically.

    Not very different from using the arbitrary word "ball" to represent a spherical object. After all, putting the word ball and the written characters for the word and the object together all in the same mental network is still a learned association - a more complex one than a simple call-leopard association, but an association all the same.
    They originally trained relations are just that, the same as above, learned associations, I agree, and not even more complex ones. All of us humans and non-humans learn in this way and having the ability to know black from white is categorising of a form too.

    The big difference, and the whole point of my argument, comes when new relations are derived, untrained, from the original ones, which I describe happening in my ball example of the previous post. In that case two relations are explicitly trained and the human will derive an extra four without further training, an animal won’t, an infant won’t.

    Your monkey alarm call example shows no element of untrained/derived behaviour and no element of being context flexible – having multiple meanings. These two things are crucial elements that define symbolic human behaviour.

    Here’s another example to describe the difference. You can teach little kids the 2 times table by rote until they know that 2x2 = 4, 3x2=6, 4x2=8 etc, until they have learned all the relations perfectly. They are not learning arithmetic, they are demonstrating a meaningless conditioned response. Ask them suddenly what 2x4 is and you’d probably get a blank look. Teach them the rule that the 2x4 is the same as 4x2 and they will symbolically apply this rule to all other numbers. Animals can learn by rote very well, but they won't be able to do the latter.


    Though I haven't been able to find an exact example of non-human primates accomplishing the "...then A=C" kind of task, I did find tests that show they can make transitive inferences; if you teach monkeys and apes a ranked series pair by pair (A>B; B>C; C>D), they can easily rank some items even if the intervening ones in the series are missing (they will tell you that B>D). If you do the same with birds, they can only remember the relative ranks of adjacent pairs.
    You’ll have to give me the exact reference for this research, as I’m aware that some claims about this type have been made, only to be rubbished when closer examination of the methodology has shown that the experimenters have inadvertently trained the relations that they claim the animals are showing without training, or the manner in which the stimuli are presented to the animal are biased, for example, some species (for some reason) will show a preference of choosing the first and last stimulus presented to them, which can, if not careful, heavily influence the results. Unless your examples have been conducted very recently, I shall take these claims with a pinch of salt.

    I find it unsurprising that they can do this, since living in a ranked social group makes it very important to remember who outranks who. Also within an actual group, ranks aren't always stable; if there is a rank reversal/exchange between two individuals, the monkey will then be able to apply this new change in rank to all the other individuals in the troupe without having to actually see the newly ranked individuals interact with all the others. Extensive studies with baboons have shown this.
    I’m not sure what you mean here, as I understand it if a person or animal experiences a change of position in a hierarchy, there is only one important relation to consider, i.e. if one person/animal becomes superior to yourself. Surely all other relationships regarding your position in them remain the same…or am I missing something. Please clarify.

    You seem to be combining the "...then A=C" relationship reasoning with the ability to know complex symbolic representations.
    That’s correct. It’s just one skill that has found to be related with language ability and higher cognitive ability, not the only one, but and it’s one methodology that can be used where animals and humans can be compared on an equal basis and it’s a particular way of testing both species for evidence of symbolic behaviour that can eliminate any biases due to prior learning history. It’s ecological validity may be questioned, but its useful in detecting any “raw ability” in animals and humans, especially when the literature on observing ape behaviour etc. in the wild is so beset with anthropomorphic claims.

    I think you are right non-human primates can't carry out the mental gymnastics to intermingle these two abilities (since if they could do that, they could have human-type languages), but I do think they have a lesser degree of each ability separately - especially in the specific ways that each ability applies to their ecology.
    So you seem to be agreeing that this ability and symbolic human language are related, good, now all that we need to come to an agreement on how humans actually are able to do this, otherwise any further discussion about how apes might have ( as you go on to say) “ the precursors. The "proto-building blocks,"” is meaningless.

    You keep saying the precursors are there, but without saying exactly what are these precursors are or how does having them result in a change from infant/ape behaviour lead to adult human behaviour. Saying they have them to a “lesser degree” is also meaningless as infants have adult cognition to a lesser degree too.

    I think a theory of mind in particular, going together with the mental mechanisms required to attain it, is the primary difference that leads to a lot of the divergence between non-human primate and human cognition.
    You seem to be hinting strongly, but not committing to saying explicitly, that having ToM is what CAUSES this divergence. I don’t accept that. ToM, important though it is, is largely irrelevant to this discussion as its really just a side effect of the important distinction between us and non-humans, which is the ability to develop symbolic language. The same as our discussion in the other thread, it’s not explicit memory that is important either, that’s another side-effect, it’s the processes involved in our development of these skills (not our evolution) that are.

    There are many things that combine and are essential for humans to develop symbolic behaviour, some I’ve outlined earlier, but probably the most important one (although not enough on its own) is the ability for covert language, i.e. the ability to have an internal dialogue with oneself. It’s highly unlikely that any animal has this ability and therefore, to get back to the original topic question, this ability might be what makes us truly human.

    I think we’re going round in circles on this argument, and I’m really struggling to get my ideas over to you, as without writing a 10,000 word essay on what I think the processes are in developing this higher level of linguistic and cognitive functions are, and I’m getting RSI from typing these long responses as it is. So here’s a link to a theory that encompasses much of what I’m trying to say and explains how simple behaviours might combine in the infant to get to symbolic ones. It’s a bit of a bugger to get through, but very interesting if you can get through the terminology and grasp the concepts ( hope I’m not being patronising here, I found it difficult at first, you might not, I don’t know your background). Have a go, and perhaps we can discuss the issues with a clearer idea of what I’m trying to get at.

    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/art...?artid=1350072

    I'm a little confused - what do you mean, comparing like to like? As an example?
    Sorry, reading back that wasn’t very clear was it? I mean when you conduct comparative language and cognition experiments, you take actual vocalisations out of the equation, as ape and human’s abilities to produce sound are not directly comparable due to biological variation in such things as vocal chords. By finding a system of producing language where they both have similar capabilities, such as getting both species to produce signs with their hands or simply by choosing a picture, the playing field becomes equal and more meaningful comparisons can be made. Is that any better?
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    I'm sorry to be frustrating you! I will admit that I've only recently been learning about a lot of this, so I will be taking some time to both read the article you linked to (though it may take me a while to plow through it!) and to further research the listing experiments I mentioned. I did find the papers I was originally referencing, but I've also found many, more recent papers on the subject that I'd like to go over in more detail. Hopefully once I'm a little more versed in these subjects I'll be able to convey my points better.

    Just to clarify a few points: I'm definitely not trying to say that a monkey leopard alarm call is like a human word. I understand they are very different. For all we know, it could signify a leopard to them, or it could just say "CRAP head for the trees!!" That's why I referred to mental representations - whatever the "meaning" of a leopard call is, it is consistent - the calls from males and females and an actual leopard growl all elicit the same behavioral and brain activation response. I find this important as it relates to human evolution, since it predates the (somewhat) analogous human ability to assign the same definition to different words despite their sounding very different from each other, i.e. gross and disgusting.

    Also, when it comes to paying attention to the ranks of other members in the troupe, experiments with baboons have shown that they keep some kind of mental record of who ranks above who, even if those ranks are not near their own. They react strongly to call-back experiments that violate established rank interactions. Paying attention to these distant ranks can be important to an individual who may want to curry favor with other members of the group, and deciding who to side with and groom and who not to.

    Finally, I do realize I am putting a lot of emphasis on ToM, because I think it had a lot to do with human development of symbolic language. When you understand that other individuals do not have the same knowledge as you, and it becomes reproductively advantageous for you to recognize this and to share information with other members of your group, then a need for true language is more likely to arise than in other cases - a need, a reproductive advantage in accurately sharing your knowledge with others who do not have it. I don't think I'd say ToM is the ultimate cause of symbolic language, but rather that it paved the way for it. A vague statement, I know - but like I said, I'm going to try and do some more research so hopefully I can be more clear.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
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    In case i get accused of trolling -

    Tee hee hee, glad to see Paralith has met her match in biological warfare and has just realised she doesn't know as much as she thought she did- (rolls over and laughs) :-D
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    Quote Originally Posted by Minxy
    In case i get accused of trolling -

    Tee hee hee, glad to see Paralith has met her match in biological warfare and has just realised she doesn't know as much as she thought she did- (rolls over and laughs) :-D
    Oh, Minxy. I know there's a lot I don't know. That's why I don't even tread in the math and physics forums. It's just not often that someone comes to this forum who is clearly as knowledgeable as hmm is, though there are many people in the world who are far more knowledgeable than myself. I'm delighted that hmm is here, because I and the rest of the forum members can really learn a lot from him/her. That's the point of this forum, learning and discussion, not posting warfare.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
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    Quote Originally Posted by paralith
    That's the point of this forum, learning and discussion, not posting warfare.
    Oh really? You could have fooled me!
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    It's not difficult to see where this paper errs. The article takes humans as standard.

    Which would be the standard stupid thing to do as a life scientist, since it results in biased conclusions.
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    there are several ways to go about it. you can define a human in its gross anatomical form and call it an average of all of us here on earth. if you wanted to be more qualitative i feel as if you would have define a human in context to its surroundings and culture in general. deviances are kind of hard to manage, considering the long (at least i feel) set of emotions people can express. language also has a lot to do with it, as it is the foundation for the social interaction that has made us to be as intelligent as we are currently.
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    Here is the thing there is only one thing that makes us human in comparison to the other species on the planet

    The abitity to go beyond survival into the relm of creation.

    You may ask what does them mean. It means we are the only beings on the planet that create simply for the act of creating. All animals on the planet simply live for survival to propigate the spicies.

    Math is inherant in all the world, we are simply the only ones able to realize how it can be used beyond survival.
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    Where on earth did you get your name from

    hacobogoesrawr (you what!?)
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    I like you here Selene, you add personality to the forum and make it far less dull .
    "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe". - Carl Sagan
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    hacobo is my dog
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  43. #42  
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    Quote Originally Posted by 425 Chaotic Requisition
    I like you here Selene, you add personality to the forum and make it far less dull .
    Well thank you very much Svwillmer (sorry i know you as Svwillmer!) you are probably the only one that thinks that!

    I like you here too.

    It makes this planet as well as this forum seem less barren.
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