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Animal intelligence has been a controversial subject for a long time. Many
have taken animal behaviour to be a series of unthinking mechanical
responses to stimuli that originate in the animal's internal or external
environments. In this view, complex behaviour can always be reduced to a
configuration of reflexes where thought plays no role. It was assumed that
only humans are capable of thought and only they have the capacity to learn language.
Recent investigations of nonhuman animal intelligence not only contradict
these ideas, but also present fascinating riddles.
The debate over animal intelligence touches on many more fundamental debates
on animal rights, human intelligence, artificial intelligence, and the
degree to which empathy or abstract problem-solving or capacity for language
should be involved in our idea of what is "intelligent".
Some intelligence quotient tests have been used to estimate Great Ape
intelligence as comparable to that of a human child. This has fuelled
debates about Great Ape personhood. However, these and other specific claims
regarding the intelligence of horses, dogs, cats, dolphins and whales in
constant contact with human beings are generally discredited as being
biased: in general the testers are also handlers, and care for the animals
Estimates of animal intelligence may be made based on construction of
artifacts and tools by animals for food and other activities. The complexity
of the communication process provides an estimate of the intelligence of the
animal. Specific experiments have been designed to measure physiological
correlates of thinking and symbolic communication, and examine deception and
manipulation by animals.
They are careful studies on the intelligence of pigeons. In these tests the
bird must peck at a slide based on its contents that are related to the
experimenter's hypothesis. It has been found that they can do tasks of
generalization that are way beyond the capabilities of computers.
The reasons for our concern with animal intelligence include the
philosophical, ethical, and scientific. The philosophical question is
related to the general question of other minds and how to define and
quantify consciousness. The ethical significance of this research stems from
the widespread belief that causing pain and suffering is morally wrong. If
it were concluded that animals were persons like individuals, would we be
able to slaughter them for food? The scientific importance is in our wish to
explore all behavioral aspects of a specific animal.