Which animals are most intelligent, and how do they know?

I read this article:

I found it fascinating how they were able to determine animal intelligence through ingenious tests. Previously, I thought all “animal intelligence” was determined simply by the body mass to brain size ratio, which really doesn’t say much about intelligence.

In the article above, they used tests to determine vocabulary, math, and logic. I haven’t read the original study, but it leads me to question dolphin and ape intelligence as well, and of course, Ben Franklin’s famous claim about turkeys.

When somebody says X animal is smart, how do they know?

You gotta watch animal planet. Some people watch animals 24/7, they can explain what a animal does and why. They can easily judge how intelligent they are, maybe they got tests as well. I’m sure it goes deeper than that though, good question.

I dunno about some of these “animal experts” though, after the whole Coco live-chat debacle.

What is that?

Basically, the handlers took nonsense “signs” Koko was making and made these huge logical leaps that Koko was actually saying something completely different.

Link: http://www.sptimes.com/2005/03/10/Floridian/Bad_gorilla__Koko_Bad.shtml

AOL: Question: Do you like to chat with other people?

PENNY: Koko, do you like to talk to people?

KOKO: Fine nipple.

PENNY: Yes, that was her answer. “Nipple” rhymes with “people,” Okay? She doesn’t sign “people” per se, so she may be trying to do a “sounds like . . .” but she indicated it was “fine.”

KOKO: Give-me. (For more treats.)

Yes, Koko actually meant to rhyme nipple with people. Sure.

Of course, when you’re comparing animal intelligence to human intelligence, it’s apples and oranges. Maybe a dog has X ability that humans also have, and cats have Y ability. They’re both “smart”, but in different things.

Comparing animal intelligence as a whole to human intelligence is another story altogether.

SD column

Mirror Test


Some bird species have the ability to solve complex problems, use tools, and co-operate to achieve a goal. Most notable are members of the corvids (crows, ravens) and the Kea (a New Zealand parrot).


As I recall, octopi also have some puzzle-solving ability.

Basically, it’s all based around various tests that demonstrate a human-centric conception of intelligence.

This is emerging science and results are definitely not final. Only 40-50 years ago or so Skinnerian Behaviorists insisted that animals are automata, performing actions in unfeeling response to direct stimulus. There’s been a wide-ranging reassessment of that, principally driven by the fact that direct observation immediately shows it cannot be a complete theory of animal behavior. (I never understood how Skinnerian Behaviorists could believe absolutely in evolution – that everything we are comes from ancestral species – and in their own theory that animals are unthinking, unfeeling, unaware machines. Where, then, did humans get awareness, thought, emotion?)

Our understanding of animals is badly hampered by our own egos and superstitions and blind spots, and is on even worse footing than our primitive and purblind understanding of humans.

The work of Dr. Irene Pepperberg, among many others, is just beginning to open the scientific establishment to new possibilities. Perhaps one day we can have an improved understanding of animals based on direct observation and the Copernican principle instead of prejudice, fear, and wishful thinking.

Are you joking?

The whole point of Skinnerian Behaviorism is that human behaviour and animal behaviour are closely akin and derived from the same evolutionary source. Nothing in there suggests that animals or humans are automata or that they only respond directly to stimulus.

Umm do you actually know anyhting about this subject? Because no such reassessment took place. Skinner himself repeatedly emphasised that his theory was not a complete theory of animal behavior.

Kinda hard to re-evaluate a position that never existed. No?

I never understood how Skinnerian Behaviorists could believe absolutely in evolution – that everything we are comes from ancestral species – and in their own theory that animals are unthinking, unfeeling, unaware machines. Where, then, did humans get awareness, thought, emotion?


WTF? Did you even read your own link?
“Skinner saw that classical conditioning didn’t account for the behavior most of us are interested in, such as riding a bike or writing a book. His observations led him to propose a theory about how these and similar behaviors, called operants, come about.”

“Skinner was not a logical positivist and recognized the importance of thought as behavior. This position is made quite clear in About Behaviorism”

“Skinner wrote extensively on the limits and possibilities nature places on conditioning. Conditioning is implemented in the body as a physiological process and is subject to the current state, learning history, and history of the species. Skinner does not consider people a blank slate, or tabula rasa”

Not only did Skinner not believe that animals are unthinking, unfeeling, unaware machines, he wrote at length on where they and humans get awareness, thought, emotion.

Might I suggest you read your own links, at least, before expounding on a subject?

Piffle, Absolute piffle.



I’ve repeatedly read over the years that mainstream scientists described animal actions as simple response to stimulus and used the term “automata.” Is my error in attributing this to Skinner?

And I guarantee you that people have blind spots when trying to interpret animal behavior.

I take it you’re refuting Dr. Pepperberg’s work? Presumably we could have a debate, Dr. Irene Pepperberg vs Some Guy On The Internet?

Not a fan of the Copernican principle, I take it?

The way to look at animal intelligence is that the animal is intelligent enough to do their job.

Imagine if cat scientists decided to test our intelligence. They’d check to see how successfully we can grab a mouse under the fridge, finding the warmest spot in the room, and how to get another species to give us food.

Then, they’d gloat about how much brighter they are than people.

Well, anyone who keeps pet budgies can tell they’re pretty smart just from observing the little boogers. It’s astonishing how much appears to be going on in those lentil-sized, birdy brains of theirs.

IOW: Cite!

I’m refuting the nonsense that you attribute to Pepperberg.

We’ve had this conversation before, and you repeatedl;y misinterpret and misirepresent the subject, as anyone interested enough to do a search can verify.

Not a fan of ignorant nonsense.

At the risk of channeling my inner Douglas Adams, I’m pretty convinced dolphins are the smartest species on Earth. I mean, we spend all day working jobs we hate, to buy things we think we need, and half of us go around trying to tell the other half how to live their life at their crappy job, and what crappy stuff they sould buy.

Dolphins, on the other hand, swim, eat, and fuck. All things that I love to do.

They knew what they were doing when they went back to the water.