Curiosity and Information Seeking in Animal and Human Behavior
eBook - ePub

Curiosity and Information Seeking in Animal and Human Behavior

A Review the Literature and Data in Comparative Psychology, Animal Cognition, Ethology, Ontogenesis, and Elements of Cognitive Neuroscience as they Relate to Animal Inquisitiveness (2nd Edition)

Wojciech Pisula

  1. 170 Seiten
  2. English
  3. ePUB (handyfreundlich)
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eBook - ePub

Curiosity and Information Seeking in Animal and Human Behavior

A Review the Literature and Data in Comparative Psychology, Animal Cognition, Ethology, Ontogenesis, and Elements of Cognitive Neuroscience as they Relate to Animal Inquisitiveness (2nd Edition)

Wojciech Pisula

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Inhaltsverzeichnis
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Über dieses Buch

The purpose of the book is to deliver a critical review of the literature and author's research data relevant for understanding the phenomena of curiosity, information seeking behavior, and novelty seeking. The book is designed to be a comprehensive and s

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Chapter 1.

Introduction and Short History of Research within Animal Psychology

Animal behavior has been the subject of human interest since the dawn of man. The nature of that interest, however, has been changing over time. Initially, discovering the animals’ behavioral patterns was essential for man’s survival in a hostile and challenging environment. With this knowledge man was able to hunt effectively and to protect himself from predators.
The significance of animals from the human point of view changed as our control over the environment increased. Their previous uses were supplemented by new ones. A good example of such change was the domestication of many animal species. The dog is a prime example of this process, albeit an untypical one. The phenomenon of domestication is quite complex. Domestication of animals kept as a source of food (meat, milk) or skin can be interpreted in terms of counteracting the shortage of game (caused by diminishing hunting grounds) and taking advantage of economic opportunity. However, the attitude towards animals as living creatures has not changed. They still are perceived in material terms. The dog is an example of a species whose domestication cannot be explained by the same factors as the domestication of pigs or cattle. Clearly, man must have noticed dogs’ other assets: intelligence, alertness, ability to survive in difficult situations. For the first time the benefit was not the animal’s meat or skin, but its behavior: humans started to appreciate and learned to take advantage of such important abilities of animals as learning and attachment. From then on the motivation to discover the rules of animal behavior took on a new, more profound character. The animal became man’s partner (albeit not his equal) in everyday work and leisure.
The utilitarian motives for learning animals’ behavioral patterns used to be and still are of primary importance, but there are also others. Apart from consciousness, the attributes often quoted as being exclusive to men are self-awareness and the urge to understand the relationships to our environment. Animals, with their varied and often complex behavior, have undoubtedly been among the stronger stimuli driving man’s quest for knowledge. The result was that animals were often included in religious belief systems. The attempts aimed at explaining animal behavior without reference to metaphysics followed a different path.
The attitude towards animals and their psychology always tended towards one of two extremes. In antiquity they were symbolized by the ideas of Aristotle, who interpreted the structure of the natural world in terms of quest for perfection, and Plato, who emphasized the gulf between the human and animal world. The two opposing trends continued through centuries, as evidenced by St. Francis of Assisi and his love of animals on the one hand, and Renè Descartes, who claimed that the soul present in humans is absent in animals, making them more akin to machines on the other. And indeed, in the 18th century that followed, dominated by the preoccupation with engineering and machinery, the influence of Descartes’ philosophy meant that animals were regarded as machines, neither having a soul nor experiencing even the most basic psychological sensations, pain included. Fascination with machines centered on their internal mechanisms, i.e. that which made them pieces of machinery. In the 18th century, this fascination coupled with the view that animals experienced no psychological sensations, paved the way for such practices as live vivisections performed in order to demonstrate the workings of the animals’ „mechanisms” (e.g. the heart, diaphragm, lungs, etc.).
This was the state of affairs when the theory of evolution (Darwin, 1859) burst onto the scene. Its impact was revolutionary. Where there was once a chasm separating the animal and human kingdoms, there was now a scalable distance, greater or smaller depending on the species. Thus, if it had previously been acceptable to conduct a comparative analysis of the phylogenetic development of the heart or skeleton, it was now equally reasonable to compare behavior, and consequently – psychology. Darwin himself published the first modern monograph in comparative psychology (back then referred to as zoopsychology) titled “The expression of the emotions in man and animals” (1872). The incredible success of the idea that “Nature takes no leaps” (Natura non facit saltus) laid the foundations for animal psychology. Those practicing the new discipline were interested in finding relationships between psychological processes in humans and animals. Their reasoning was as follows: if the continuity of morphological, anatomical or physiological development could be demonstrated, then in all probability the same held true for psychological processes. They were therefore looking for similarities between human and animal behavior. If there are analogies between the construction of a nest by a bird and the construction of a house by a man, and if the functions of the former are similar to those of the latter, then it only takes one short step to assume that the underlying psychological processes are analogous. This approach to the study of animals was strongly opposed by some researchers. One of them was C. L. Morgan, who proposed the following argument against the anthropomorphic interpretation of animal behavior: „In no case may we interpret an action as the outcome of the exercise of a higher psychical faculty, if it can be interpreted as the outcome of the exercise of one which stands lower in psychological scale.” (Morgan, 1894, p. 53). The two parallel schools of animal behavior analysis were founded on the distinction between approval and rejection of Morgan’s cannon.
J. Loeb’s principle of forced movements (Loeb, 1918) was the prime example of the mechanistic view of animal behavior influenced by the philosophy of Descartes. Using models of animals with simple anatomy (flatworms, annelids), Loeb demonstrated that a significant part of their behavior was generated by simple reflexes occurring in response to environmental stimuli and, more importantly, controlled peripherally, with no involvement of the central nervous system. He referred to these simple, directional responses as tropisms, and he was looking for evidence of their operation in higher organisms.
The answer to the shortcomings of zoopsychology (criticized for its anthropomorphism) and experimental psychology was to be animal ethology. Ethologists (ethos meaning habit in Greek) made animal habits the scope of their research. K. Lorenz, N. Tinbergen, K. von Frisch, R. Hinde and I. Eibl-Eibesfeldt came to the conclusion that the behavior of animals must be studied in their natural habitat, where its biological meaning could be deduced. Any interference with the behavior of a single animal or group distorts the significance of a given behavior, making it more difficult to interpret and rendering useless the most precise measurements and analyses. Ethologists record the forms of behavior typically exhibited by a given species in its proper environment. The primary research technique is observation. There is a strong emphasis on the evolution of behavior. Ethology broadened our knowledge by contributing such ideas as chains of actions, key stimuli, or conflict between drives.
Initially, in order to avoid the mistakes of zoopsychologists, ethologists rejected the realm of psychological phenomena, focusing on “objectively measurable” behavioral factors. With time, however, it became clear (Lorenz, 1982) that the cognitive processes underlying or regulating animal behavior along with other factors would be the core subject of ethology and comparative psychology. Lack of objectification of results and standardization of experimental conditions, as well as disregard for the concepts of general psychology (including the achievements of the psychology of learning) provoked mounting opposition to the ethological school and led to the foundation of a new paradigm, namely the ethoexperimental approach.
This avenue of research was continued in the work of experimental psychologists, who developed a new branch of psychology: behaviorism. The work of behaviorists (Skinner, 1938; Tolman, 1949) embodied the ambition to achieve strict control of experimental conditions, reproducibility of results and mathematization of data analysis. Experimental psychologists usually based their studies on animals on selected forms of behavior, artificially generated through instrumental conditioning, e.g. pressing a lever, running in a running wheel, etc. They paid little attention the particular species on which they were experimenting, implicitly assuming universal significance of all processes under investigation. The use of artificially generated forms of animal behavior was coupled with a nearly total disregard for the biological significance of a given behavior and for individual differences. Experiments were conducted in a laboratory, and their only aspect going beyond its confines were the researchers’ conclusions. Obviously, the conclusions were formulated in a universal manner, but the criticism leveled at the aforementioned interpretative limitations prompted a significant change in the approach to research on animals. Objections aside, we cannot ignore the great achievements of behavioral psychologists (e.g. their contribution to the theory of learning), and their impact on the development of psychology.
The publication in 1935 of the principles of animal psychology by N. R. F. Maier and T. C. Schneirla was an attempt to avoid the basic dispute about the nature of animals, i.e. whether their psychological functions were comparable to human ones. The authors presented their own analysis, trying to assume an unbiased and objective approach, without favoring either option. The monograph still makes for interesting reading, although it should be pointed out that both the followers of the mechanistic school and the proponents of the cognitive approach have rejected the ideas of Meier and Schneirla.
Beginning in the 1930s, the theory of continuous phylogenetic development of higher psychological processes became the cornerstone of progress in animal behavior research. Its prominence was due to the famous research of W. Köhler (1926) on insight learning in chimpanzees completing problem-solving tasks. With the resistance to the notion that thinking is not a privilege reserved to human beings, Köhler’s study was quoted as evidence of thinking in animals as often as to support the idea that thinking and related phenomena occur only in anthropoid primates.
The founder of modern ideas about cognitive processes in animals was L. V. Krushinsky. Working in the Soviet Union, back then dominated by dogmatic Pavlovianism, he had to come a long way to develop his own, original theoretical and methodological framework. The key notion of his system is extrapolation, defined as the ability to predict physical events, especially the direction of movement of biologically significant objects (Krushinsky, 1990). One classic example is predator chasing its prey, when the escaping animal suddenly changes direction, often disappearing from the predator’s field of vision. By analyzing data from countless experiments, Krushinsky was able to distinguish a number of important patterns. For instance, he concluded that within-class differences in vertebrates are greater than between-class differences. Extrapolation abilities in corvids are superior to most mammals, while tortoises, generally regarded as extremely unintelligent, perform no worse than average mammals. It took nearly twenty years for Krushinsky’s monograph to be discovered by the English-speaking world. Its publication in English came too late (1990) and failed to make the impact it would have made had it been available in the early 1980s. The ideas of Krushinsky are present in numerous publications, but direct quotes and citations are few and far between.
The turning point was the publication of D. Griffin’s seminal work (Griffin, 1984). Griffin undertook a radical critique of the reductionist and mechanistic approach by re-interpreting a number of animal behaviors that could suggest the presence of cognitive processes. His main thesis concerned methodology, or, to use T. S. Kuhn’s terminology, paradigm. Griffin argued that strict adherence to Morgan’s principle lead to an error in reasoning which consisted in denying facts that could be evidence of thinking and consciousness in animals. To underestimate the complexity of the organization of phenomena is a mistake as serious as to overestimate it. Griffin advocated the introduction into animal psychology of concepts from cognitive psychology, such as consciousness, representations and thinking, and their verification within its framework on similar terms as in human psychology. The key to his analytical method was the use of the term „other minds”. Besides its strictly descriptive function, the significance of this term lies in the fact that it expresses the overall position towards the problem of mind. The key is to truly abandon the anthropocentric perspective in which the human mind is the frame of reference for all comparisons. The study of other minds is the process of learning other, sometimes alternative, and sometimes completely distinct evolutionary solutions.
Griffin’s approach suffers at times from the so-called pendulum effect. Developed in opposition to behavioral psychology on the one hand, and classic ethology on the other, animal cognitive psychology may seem somewhat naive and not entirely free from the restrictions of anthropomorphism. It should be pointed out that there is nothing in Morgan’s principle that prohibits the study of mental phenomena in animals. What it posits, however, is that one should verify hypotheses related to lower-level structures before proposing one that refers to the mind. Criticism aside, there is no doubt that the publication of Griffin’s monograph was the turning point in the study of cognition in animals.
One of the important themes in the new cognitive ethology/psychology of animals was the nature of cognitive/neural representation. C. R. Gallistel (1990) defined four sine qua non conditions which must be satisfied if the claim of the existence of a representation is to be valid. Thus, representations exist if:
1) There is a mapping from external entities or events to mental or neural variables that serve as representatives of those entities.
2) There is a formal correspondence between relational and combinatorial operations involving these neural or mental variables and relations and combinatorial processes involving the things denoted by them.
3) The mapping process and the combinatorial processes are together such that the combinatorial processes in the representing system generate valid anticipations of events and relations in the represented system.
4) The capacity of the neural or mental operations to generate generally correct anticipations of external events and relations is exploited by the mechanisms that generate behavior adapted to those events and relations.
This version of the defining conditions of cognitive or neural representations is considered overly restrictive by some commentators (Shettleworth, 1998). Nevertheless, it exemplifies the way of thinking typical for present day animal psychologists and ethologists of cognitive persuasion.
A separate issue is the demarcation of research domains essential for understanding the evolution of mental processes. We can say with a high degree of certainty that those include: exploratory behavior, play, counting and numerical operations, individual recognition of others and oneself, communicating in a learned language and formulation of the theory of mind. An exhaustive review of the state of knowledge in each of those domains is outside the scope of this text. There are, however, those elements that are central to our overall understanding of the subject.
Both play and exploration are forms of behavior that elude analysis. Typically, ethologists have been looking for repetitive and therefore relatively stereotyped behavior patterns. Play and exploration, however, are instigated by a wide range of stimuli (no specific stimulus-behavior relationship), occurring irregularly, and varying in performance.
Particularly noteworthy is the relationship between exploration, play, and behavior referred to as intelligent. Curiosity, play, and intelligence together form an inseparable triad in the evolution of vertebrates. Interestingly, a popular belief that play is only observed in mammals, and to a very limited degree in birds (Fagen, 1981), is currently undergoing revision. For example, M. Kramer and G. M. Burghardt (1998) found that some behaviors demonstrated by turtles would be difficult to interpret as anything other than play.
The study of intellectual abilities in animals seemed to have come to an abrupt stop early in the 20th century with the demise of Clever Hans, the counting horse. However, the subject came back into the focus of animal behavior researchers towards the end of twentieth century. There is no doubt that a number of animal species have the ability to estimate (measure?) time, volume or incidence (probability of occurrence). What is unclear is the nature of the process that leads to the observable results. There is no question that most laboratory vertebrates (e.g. rats) can tell the difference between three and five objects. It is less obvious whether the animal makes its judgment based on some primitive mechanism for quantity estimation, limited to a certain number of elements, or whether it is actually counting. The problematic question is this: does arithmetic require some form of understanding of mathematical properties of numbers? Probably not. Quantities can be denoted (Shettleworth, 1998) with labels, i.e. “one”, „two”, „three,” and, for example, „many”. The ultimate criterion for judging arithmetic competence would be the ability (or lack thereof) to manipulate numbers (addition, subtraction). This particular ability seems to be very rare, but recent studies show that it is found in primates, and perhaps also in other animals. M. D. Hauser (2000) demonstrated that in rhesus monkeys spontaneous calculation and use of arithmetic operations is rare. The efficiency of number manipulation is increased dramatically by training. Currently, the key issue in the study of mathematic abilities in animals is to uncover the nature of number representation.
The results obtained in studies on the development of communication in a learned language in chimpanzees are ambiguous. On the one hand, research conducted by Allen and Beatrice Gardner (1969) on teaching sign language to chimpanzees seemed to confirm the ability of these animals to use a learned language at a level comparable to simple human speech. On the other hand, many authors emphasized the imitative nature of the chimpanzees’ communication and their inability to communicate spontaneously (meaning they are unlikely to chat about the wea...

Inhaltsverzeichnis

  1. Foreword
  2. Chapter 1.
  3. Chapter 2.
  4. Chapter 3.
  5. Chapter 4.
  6. Chapter 5.
  7. Chapter 6.
  8. Chapter 7.
  9. Chapter 8.
  10. Chapter 9.
  11. Chapter 10.
  12. Chapter 11.
  13. References