How does consciousness vary across the animal kingdom? Are some animals ‘more conscious’ than others? This article presents a multidimensional framework for understanding interspecies variation in states of consciousness. The framework distinguishes five key dimensions of variation: perceptual richness, evaluative richness, integration at a time, integration across time, and self-consciousness. For each dimension, existing experiments that bear on it are reviewed and future experiments are suggested. By assessing a given species against each dimension, we can construct a consciousness profile for (...) that species. On this framework, there is no single scale along which species can be ranked as more or less conscious. Rather, each species has its own distinctive consciousness profile. (shrink)
An important part of our Theory of Mind—the ability to reason about other people's unobservable mental states—is the ability to attribute false beliefs to others. We investigated whether processing these false beliefs, as well as similar but nonmental representations, is reliant on language. Participants watched videos in which a protagonist hides a gift and either takes a photo of it or writes a text about its location before a second person inadvertently moves the present to a different location, thereby rendering (...) the belief and either the photo or text false. At the same time, participants performed either a concurrent verbal interference task (rehearsing strings of digits) or a visual interference task (remembering a visual pattern). Results showed that performance on false belief trials did not decline under verbal interference relative to visual interference. We interpret these findings as further support for the view that language does not form an essential part of the process of reasoning online (“in the moment”) about false beliefs. (shrink)
We agree with Vaesen that there is evidence for cognitive differences between humans and other primates. However, it is too early to draw firm conclusions about the uniqueness of the cognitive mechanisms underlying human tool use. Tests of causal understanding are in their infancy, as is the study of animals more distantly related to humans.
We address the claim that nonhuman animals do not represent unobservable states, based on studies of physical cognition by rooks and social cognition by scrub-jays. In both cases, the most parsimonious explanation for the results is counter to the reinterpretation hypothesis. We suggest that imagination and prospection can be investigated in animals and included in models of cognitive architecture.
Knowing the individual skills and competences of one's group members may be important for deciding from whom to learn (social learning), with whom to collaborate and whom to follow. We investigated whether 12 jackdaws could select conspecifics based on their helping skills, which had been exhibited in a previous context. The birds were tested in a blocked-exit-situation, where they could choose between two conspecifics, one of which could be recruited inside. One conspecific had previously displayed the ability to open the (...) exit door whilst the other individual lacked the skill. The subjects showed a significant preference for the skilled conspecific if they had previously directly benefited from this skill. If they had merely observed the skilled (and non-skilled) individual opening (or failing to open) the exit door, they did not preferably choose the skilled conspecific. Taken together, these results suggest that jackdaws are capable of assessing other individuals' competence under certain circumstances. (shrink)