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Abstract Animals

February 18, 2009

Some animals use abstract reasoning to solve problems.


Abstract animals….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Philosophers once thought only humans were capable of abstract reasoning. That’s our ability to make judgments based on generalized rules. But recent studies suggest that some animals can reason abstractly, too. Ed Wasserman is an experimental psychologist scientist at the University of Iowa. He and his team showed both pigeons and baboons pictures of different objects, and had them categorize them as the same or different.

ED WASSERMAN (Institution):
And then the critical point in the experiment comes when we show them new items. And to the degree that the pigeons and baboons make the correct choice, we can say that in fact they have transferred the discrimination learned with one set of items to an altogether different set of items.

He says the ability to think abstractly could help some animals solve problems and survive better in a complex environment. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.