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404 Forum TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences Vol.5 No.

9 September 2001

Book Review

another, not to mention that bats have until a behaviorist skeptic pointed to
Do animals know that become an icon for the mysteries of non- specific cues the animals could have used,
they know? human consciousness5. This volume is early tests of ‘theory of mind’in chimpanzees
expanded from Griffin’s previous books on were interpreted as showing that the chimps
the same subject, largely in the chapters could tell what a human experimenter knew.
Animal Minds: Beyond Cognition to given to spirited rebuttals of his critics and With better controlled experiments, the
Consciousness to up-to-the-minute discussions of new chimpanzees no longer behaved as if they
by Donald R. Griffin, University of Chicago material from neuroscience and philosophy understood humans’minds. Similarly, clever
Press, 2001. $27.50/£17.50 (xvi + 356 pages) (other sections, such as that on animal tool tests of tool-using monkeys have revealed
ISBN 0 226 30865 0 use, could have done with more updating). surprising gaps in their understanding3.
Nearly every field related to the study of Unfortunately for the comparative
A quarter of a animal minds has developed almost beyond study of consciousness, most empirical
century ago, recognition since his first book in 1976 (as studies of human consciousness rely at
Donald Griffin first can be seen in Refs 2–4). The contemporary some point on what subjects say about
raised the flag for study of comparative cognition was just their mental states. Indeed, some authors
the scientific study getting off the ground then, as have suggested that only members of the
of animal behavioristically trained psychologists one species with language might be
consciousness in began testing memory and other cognitive conscious4. Nevertheless, the current
the book1 of which processes in rats and pigeons. In ethology, enthusiasm for the study of human
this is essentially rigorous field experiments had barely begun consciousness, together with the
the fifth edition. to reveal what understanding underlies importance of animal research to
Although expanded and updated, its animal communication. Meanwhile, in advances in neuroscience, has stimulated
essential message remains: scientists not cognitive psychology and neuroscience, the a growing number of attempts to define
only should take seriously the possibility study of human consciousness has become behavior in animals that is functionally
that non-human animals are conscious more than respectable, whilst also similar to human behavior associated
in some sense but they should try to sparking new dialogues with philosophers. with verbal reports of particular kinds of
understand the nature of that These developments occurred largely awareness. Prime examples are studies
consciousness. Observations of behavioral independently of Griffin’s writings, but all of episodic-like memory in scrub jays6
complexity, flexible adjustment to novelty, provide rich grist for his mill. and a recent demonstration that rhesus
and studies of natural and laboratory When a beaver repairs its dam in a macaques know when they remember7.
trained communication are enthusiastically surprising and novel way, Griffin urges us to The jays and monkeys in those
described in order to persuade readers entertain the possibility that it is consciously experiments could increase their reward
that at least some animals, some of the thinking about its predicament and deciding rates if they had access to processes that
time, are not only perceptually aware but what to do. That may be so, but in order to in humans are characterized by
consciously think about what they are be sure, a causal role for conscious distinctive conscious experiences.
doing. Beavers repairing their dams and thinking must be specified in a way that Whether such tests do capture the same
bowerbirds choosing decorations for their allows the behavior of a conscious beaver processes in non-humans can be debated,
bowers appear in company with the usual to be distinguished from that of a but whether or not one can go beyond
pigeon, parrot, bee and chimpanzee non-conscious one. Better yet, the functionally similar behaviors to similar
subjects of studies on animal counting, evolution of consciousness would be more mental experiences seems unresolvable at
communication, and other forms of comprehensible if consciousness could be present7,8. And more accurately specifying
problem-solving. Notwithstanding the seen to increase fitness. Griffin the neural correlates of consciousness –
fact that animal counting, communication characterizes some of his critics – including a topic whose relevance to this enterprise
and problem-solving are usually studied myself 3 – as ‘paralytic perfectionists’ does not escape Griffin – might not even be
without any commitment to the nature of (p. 32), claiming that we demand such an helpful when it comes to animals with
the animals’ private experiences, as unreasonably high standard of proof for very different nervous systems, like the
reviewed in other recent books2–4, Griffin is any sort of animal consciousness that we insects frequently mentioned in this book.
as ready to infer conscious thinking from cannot study it at all. But the paralytic Regardless of where one stands, devising
them as from the wealth of ethological perfectionists have an important role in non-verbal tests for specific mental
observations he so vividly recounts. proposing testable alternatives to all-too- processes in animals is a major challenge
Long before he began writing about ready invocations of conscious thought or for those studying the evolutionary and
animal consciousness, Griffin was well any other anthropomorphic mechanism to neural basis of any aspect of cognition,
known for his studies of echolocation in explain behavior. It can take a leap of consciousness included. For them and for
bats. Indeed it is tempting to see a imagination to grasp that creatures that the general scientific reader, Griffin’s
connection between his success at might look and behave very much like us latest book is a sometimes infuriating, not
elucidating one mechanism of animal do not also think like us, but very often always sufficiently critical, but always
behavior invisible (and inaudible) to those willing to make that leap have found stimulating summary of one person’s
humans and his willingness to tackle the evidence in their favor. For example, perspective on the current state of play. 1364-6613/01/$ – see front matter © 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. PII: S1364-6613(00)01745-9
Forum TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences Vol.5 No.9 September 2001 405

Sara J. Shettleworth was part of cognition. No-one had heard is to be welcomed: many cognitive texts deal
Dept of Psychology, University of Toronto, of cognitive science. We were steeped in with expertise or creativity, but this one
100 St George Street, Room 4020, Toronto, information theory, signal detection, links them to intelligence, and intelligence
Ontario, Canada M5S 3G3. psychophysics, backward masking, iconic to the mainstream of cognition – and does
e-mail: memory, the magical number seven. The so most effectively. It is the strongest part
stratigraphy of the textbooks of the time is of the book. The sections on intelligence are
1 Griffin, D.R. (1976) The Question of Animal very interesting. For a few years, there was not the only distinctive aspect of it, though:
Awareness, Rockefeller University Press a set of slim paperbacks covering particular there is also an emphasis on development,
2 Hauser, M.D. (2000) Wild Minds: What Animals areas in not very great detail; the earliest teaching and learning. This is welcome too,
Really Think, Henry Holt & Co.
general cognitive psychology textbook on and again reflects the research expertise
3 Shettleworth, S.J. (1998) Cognition, Evolution,
and Behavior, Oxford University Press my shelf is Lindsay and Norman’s Human of the two authors. Apart from these
4 Macphail, E.M. (1998) The Evolution of Information Processing (1977), still, for my sections, the rest overlaps with what one
Consciousness, Oxford University Press money, among the best there’s ever been. can find in a more conventional text, such
5 Nagel, T. (1974) What is it like to be a bat? After these came the deluge, of course, as Eysenck and Keane’s.
Philos. Rev. 83, 435–450
and the cognitive psychology we teach today But I’m not going to be uncritical.
6 Griffiths, D. et al. (1999) Episodic memory:
what can animals remember about their past? is richer, more interesting and more easily I always look for the theoretical streak in a
Trends Cognit. Sci. 3, 74–80 connectible with the world outside the lab textbook, and in this case, I found it fainter
7 Hampton, R.R. (2001) Rhesus monkeys know and the classroom; indeed, the ‘real world’is than expected. Here are two examples: for
when they remember. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. the lab for an increasing range of research, one, the scene-setting section claims to
U. S. A. 98, 5359–5362
8 Griffin, D.R. (2001) Animals know more than we used
in a way unimaginable a generation ago. offer a background to the study of cognition
to think. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 98, 4833–4834 No-one could now list all the books that but is little more than a potted history of
have the words ‘cognitive psychology’ or psychology, rounding up the usual suspects.
‘cognition’ in their titles. Cognition is, for And poor Broadbent is nowhere to be seen,
sure, a very complex business now, and neither are the revolutions in information
Representing high-level the challenge of communicating it to a processing in other disciplines which helped
cognitive processes contemporary clientele is daunting. engender cognitive psychology (Lindsay
Complex cognition: the authors don’t and Norman’s title was no accident).
mean it to sound daunting, obviously. But Spooling forward to the present day for the
Complex Cognition: The Psychology of they do mean to reflect the field’s expanded second example, it was astonishing to see
Human Thought range by forgoing both of the traditional so little mention of the current vogue for
by Robert Sternberg and Talia Ben-Zeev, ways of compiling textbooks. The first is evolutionary theorising. Whatever you
Oxford University Press, 2001. £25.99 the Lindsay and Norman way: to attempt a might think of it as an explanatory scheme,
(xi + 450 pages) ISBN 0 19 510771 3 survey of the whole field, as is done today evolutionary psychology has brought about
by, for instance, Eysenck and Keane1. The as large a boost to hypothesis generation as
It may be a truism, alternative is to confine the text to a more did connectionism in the 1980s. Pinker’s
but the first thing detailed account of a readily circumscribed giant tome on the subject2 is not even cited.
that strikes you area: the psychology of memory, or language, So, does the book succeed, would I
about this book is or thinking and reasoning. Sternberg and recommend it to my students? Well, yes and
its title. Complex Ben-Zeev carve at a joint that Wundt would no. It is distinct, but not excessively so, from
cognition: well, it have recognized: where ‘high-level’cognitive other textbooks. However, there is not the
certainly is these processes – the ones he shrunk from level of detail, and especially theory, that one
days. It made me studying – begin. Thus, ‘Complex would find in a more specialist text. The book
look back to my cognition deals with how people mentally is aimed at ‘upper-division undergraduate or
own introduction to represent and think about…information’ beginning postgraduate students’(p. ix), but I
psychology, some time ago. The psychology (p. 1). They therefore eschew perception, fear it may not be specialized enough for this
that the beginning student encountered in attention, memory even, although they do sector, and not general enough for students
1971, if my college was typical, was still deal with knowledge; they also look at at an earlier stage, to separate them from
dominated by behaviourism: ‘psychology is thinking, language, intelligence, and their cash. If you decide to use it for teaching,
the scientific study of human and animal learning and teaching. Do they succeed? best order some copies for your library, one
behaviour’, we learned (effectively, as you can These authors are eminently suited to for yourself, and put it on your booklist.
see). I can also recall the frisson that rippled the task they set themselves: few have
around the room when my friend Julian, been as productive as has Sternberg. Ken Manktelow
on being asked by the tutor to reproduce There are in excess of 20 books in the University of Wolverhampton, Wulfruna
the definition, used the word ‘mind’. reference list with his name on them, and Street, Wolverhampton, UK WV1 1SB.
And cognitive psychology? That meant he is referenced in all the major sections e-mail:
the two urtexts: Neisser’s Cognitive just mentioned. He is probably best known
Psychology (1967) and Broadbent’s for his work on intelligence, having been a References
1 Eysenck, M.W. and Keane, M.T. (2000) Cognitive
Perception and Communication (1958); leading figure in developing a cognitive Psychology: A Student’s Handbook, Psychology
Gregory’s Eye and Brain (1968) was new too, approach to the problem. Hence the Press
just preparing us for the idea that perception appearance of that topic in this book, and it 2 Pinker, S. (1997) How the Mind Works, Penguin 1364-6613/01/$ – see front matter © 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. PII: S1364-6613(00)01749-6