| School of Psychology, Birkbeck College|
PRIMATE COGNITION 1: GENERAL ISSUES AND ATTEMPTS AT ‘LANGUAGE’ TRAINING
[top of page 1 of handout]Essay (no 8 on the March 15th list)
[top of page 1 of handout]Notes (see also the Easter Handout for Summer-Term Lectures)
“A third hypothesis proposes that there are, in fact, neither quantitative nor qualitative differences among the intellects of non-human vertebrates. It is argued that this null hypothesis is currently to be preferred, and that man's intellectual superiority may be due solely to our possession of a species -specific language- acquisition device” (Macphail, 1985; p.37; see also Macphail, 1996 and Macphail and Bolhuis, 2001).
[bottom of page 2 of handout]Further notes on species differences in cognition
Macphail’s “Null hypothesis” corresponds to an emphasis on “global adaptations” (see sheet 5 of the week 3 handout). It is certainly the case that behavioural processes such as habituation are very widespread across species, but there is also evidence for species specific specializations such as visual recognition and memory for food locations as discussed in week 8 and week 9.
[bottom of page 3 of handout]2. The issue of brain size (page 9 in Pearce, 1997)
There are extremely large differences between species both in absolute size of the brain, and in the size of the brain in relation to body-weight. Although the relation between brain-size and brain function is to some extent indirect, one of the reasons for assuming that primate cognitive abilities may differ from those of the average mammal is that primates in general have above-average brain weights for their body size. (see page 8 of handout for replotted data and Ponting & Jackson, 2005, Evans et al., 2006 and Tang, 2006 for recent studies of the genetic mechanisms behind the increases in brain size in primates and in humans in particular.)
3. Specializations in brain function.
Most primate species share with humans the specialization in foveal colour vision, which is not
used by other
mammals, and elaborate social interactions exhibited over a long life-span. In terms of
both ecological and anatomical specializations therefore, we would expect to find
something in common between human cognition and cognition in primates (e.g. Barton, 1998; Regan et al., 2002). There is increasing evidence, in part due to brain-imaging studies in humans, that
there is detailed correspondence between localization of brain function in humans and
other primates (e.g. Ungerlieder, et al, 1998; Courtney et al, 1998;
Rizzolati et al, 1996; Cantelupo and Hopkins, 2001; Miller
et al., 2002; Semendeferi et al., 2002; Bush and Allman, 2004; Schenker et al., 2005; Sherwood et al., 2006; Tsao et al., 2006).
However, a recently emerging field of research is the genetic and neural aspects of brain development and function which are uniquely human (Enard et al., 2002a and 2002b; Elson et al., 2001; Buxhoeveden et al., 2001; Rilling and Seligman, 2002; Preuss et al., 2004; Pollard et al., 2006)
[page 3 of handout]
[bottom of page 3 of handout]Main Sources — Primate Cognition
Roberts, W.A (1998) Principles of Animal Cognition. Boston: McGraw-Hill. Chapter 12 "Primate Cognition".(1 copy on short loan at BK; 4 loan copies)
Walker, S.F. (1985). Animal Thought. Routledge & Kegan Paul: London pp 339-388
Walker, S.F. (1987b). Animal Learning. Routledge & Kegan Paul: London. pp. 332-357.
Further Reading — Primate Cognition
Boysen, ST and Himes, GT (1999) Current issues and emerging theories in animal cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, Vol.50, Pp.683-705.
www. version of this paper (If at BK or using BK dial-up software)
Heyes, C.M. (1998) Theory of mind in nonhuman primates. Behavioural and Brain Sciences, 21, 108-148.
Macphail, EM (1996) Cognitive function in mammals - the evolutionary perspective . Cognitive Brain Research, Vol.3, No.3-4, Pp.279-290.
Pearce J.M. (1997) Animal Learning and Cognition 2nd Edition. Hove: Psychology Press. 156.315 PEA in new section at Birkbeck. 1 normal and 1 Short Loan copy (pages 1-14, 237- 251, 253-287)
Tomasello, M. (2000). Primate cognition: Introduction to the issue. Cognitive Science, 24(3), 351-361.
Walker, S.F. (1987a). The evolution and dissolution of language. In Ellis, A. (ed.), Progress in the Psychology of Language. Volume 3. Lawrence Erlbaum: London. pp 28-41 only (Short Loan).
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