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Allen, C. (1998). Assessing animal cognition: ethological and philosophical perspectives. J. Anim Sci., 76(1), 42–47.
Abstract: Developments in the scientific and philosophical study of animal cognition and mentality are of great importance to animal scientists who face continued public scrutiny of the treatment of animals in research and agriculture. Because beliefs about animal minds, animal cognition, and animal consciousness underlie many people's views about the ethical treatment of nonhuman animals, it has become increasingly difficult for animal scientists to avoid these issues. Animal scientists may learn from ethologists who study animal cognition and mentality from an evolutionary and comparative perspective and who are at the forefront of the development of naturalistic and laboratory techniques of observation and experimentation that are capable of revealing the cognitive and mental properties of nonhuman animals. Despite growing acceptance of the ethological study of animal cognition, there are critics who dispute the scientific validity of the field, especially when the topic is animal consciousness. Here, a proper understanding of developments in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of science can help to place cognitive studies on a firm methodological and philosophical foundation. Ultimately, this is an interdisciplinary task, involving scientists and philosophers. Animal scientists are well-positioned to contribute to the study of animal cognition because they typically have access to a large pool of potential research subjects whose habitats are more controlled than in most field studies while being more natural than most laboratory psychology experiments. Despite some formidable questions remaining for analysis, the prospects for progress in assessing animal cognition are bright.
Allen, C. (2006). Transitive inference in animals: Reasoning or conditioned associations? In S. Hurley, & M. Nudds (Eds.), Rational Animals? (pp. 175–186). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Abstract: It is widely accepted that many species of nonhuman animals appear to engage in transitive inference,
producing appropriate responses to novel pairings of non-adjacent members of an ordered series
without previous experience of these pairings. Some researchers have taken this capability as
providing direct evidence that these animals reason. Others resist such declarations, favouring instead
explanations in terms of associative conditioning. Associative accounts of transitive inference have
been refined in application to a simple 5-element learning task that is the main paradigm for
laboratory investigations of the phenomenon, but it remains unclear how well those accounts
generalise to more information-rich environments such as social hierarchies which may contain scores
of individuals, and where rapid learning is important. The case of transitive inference is an example of
a more general dispute between proponents of associative accounts and advocates of more cognitive
accounts of animal behaviour. Examination of the specific details of transitive inference suggests
some lessons for the wider debate.
Allen, C., & Bekoff, M. (2007). Animal Minds, Cognitive Ethology, and Ethics. The Journal of Ethics, 11, 299–317.