Communication, Language, and Meaning: Psychological Perspectives

By George A. Miller | Go to book overview

7 SPEECH DEVELOPMENT AND BIRD SONG: ARE THERE ANY PARALLELS?

Peter Marler

Ever since Aesop, animals have served as a kind of mirror for man, although the reflections, such as they be, are usually viewed with some sense of condescension on our part. It is obvious to anyone who thinks even half seriously about the matter that man and the animals are fundamentally different, or so we are told. But two recent popular books that were high on the bestseller list in the United States for many weeks- Desmond Morris' The Naked Ape and Robert Ardrey's The Territorial Imperative -- have raised a nagging question in the minds of many of their readers. These books renew the ancient plea that the chances of solving some of the questions that plague us about human behavior may be increased if we remind ourselves that man still has much in common with his animal ancestry. Some of our confusion about the position to take vis-U+00EO-vis our animal ancestors surely stems from uncertainty concerning the appropriate questions to ask about the causes of our own behavior. These authors argue persuasively that if we can only achieve a more thorough understanding of the rules that govern the behavior of animals, we may then be in a better position to develop more revealing hypotheses about ourselves.

But there are others who are still unconvinced of the relevance of animal studies to man, at least at the psychological level. At the level of cellular biology, and physiology, even that of the nervous system, we all accept the many parallels between animals and man, and much of the science of medicine is based

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