Animal intelligence may share the same abbreviation as Spielberg’s 2001 movie A.I. however it is anything but artificial. A previous article, Animals and the Emotional Experience, delved into the fascinating world of animals and their emotions. The research regarding that topic exposed that animals feel and respond to emotion, which raises questions concerning other aspects of the animal mind; such as cognition and personality development. Does animal intelligence exist?
Austrian researcher, Pete Chernika, has studied animal awareness and divulges some interesting information regarding animal intelligence. He explains, “In experiments, for instance, dolphins appear to pass one consciousness test by recognizing themselves in mirrors. And dolphins also exhibit a keen awareness of the status and identity of other dolphins in their highly social groups… They appear to be able to envision themselves in relation to all these other animals and then act accordingly.”
These actions show these adept animals have a very high level of intelligence. However, how do our domesticated pets rank in comparison on the animal intelligence scale? Research concerning obedience training supports the theory of animal intelligence due to the animal’s ability to learn skills that require some level of natural understanding.
Leslie Irvine, Sociologist at the University of Colorado admits the value of dog training in understanding animal intelligence. She feels dog training “illustrates the ability of the animal to reason.” Irvine continues, ”You are teaching the dog to make a decision about a particular response. You can actually see the dog making up his or her mind, and they don’t always do what we want them to do… The dog has to actually figure out which option has a better reward.”
This quote points out animal intelligence when it comes to an animal’s ability to analyze a situation, understand the relationship between the request and the reward, and than consciously choose its own course of action. B.F. Skinner conducted a series of experiments when it came to understanding human behavior in the nature of rewards and consequences. Basically Irvine acted as the Skinner for animals, concluding that an animal has a mind of its own, a personality. Can we say A.I. or Animal Intelligence?
When dealing with the topic of an animal’s personality, it’s easier to look at personality faults which need to be retrained. Popular show Dog Whisperer, features the training expertise of Cesar Millan. Millan encounters all sorts of odd animal behavior on his show and helps owners re-sculpt negative aspects of the pet’s personality.
An episode entitled, “The Lady Is a Tramp,” featured a case concerned a Dalmatian-German Shepherd mix named Lady. The owner of the dog, Karolynn Hill, “considers Lady to be the child she never had.” Lady apparently felt the same way as she became very overprotective of her owner, not letting anyone near her. The animal’s actions suggest the dog to have a possessive personality, which developed due to the dog’s strong emotional connection to the owner.
Lady also had a very negative relationship with the owner’s mother, Floriece, which Cesar addressed. According to the owner, “When Lady was young; Floriece got so fed up at her constant barking that she would bark back at her.” Floriece admitted, “I could tell she didn’t like it.” Needless to say the dog became jaded and since then would constantly barks at Floriece.
This situation is very interesting. The dog was seemingly offended by the taunting and essentially developed a grudge against the woman; thus exhibiting another aspect of the animal’s personality, as well as a personality clash with a human counterpart.
After Cesar was called to assist the situation, his training methods proved effective and the dog’s personality improved- illustrating intelligence. The dog was made aware and understood that its actions were unacceptable through Cesar’s reinforcement. Lady’s story illustrates animal intelligence as well as the underlying personalities and emotions that are contained in our four legged friends.
Remember your pet does not “eat without pleasure, cry without pain, or act without knowing it,” as French philosopher René Descartes once suggested. Your pet feels and acts accordingly; in a purposeful, decisive manner. When your pet refuses to do something, remember its been proven, there is, A.I. or animal intelligence out there.