Feral Children and Clever Animals: Reflections on Human Nature

By Douglas Keith Candland | Go to book overview

6
Experimentation and the Experimenter: Clever Hans's Companions

A MAJOR premise of this book is that observation and experimentation involving both animals and human beings alter the observer as well as the observed. Everyone known to us who came into Hans's life found that their relation to him and to one another changed. Hr. Schillings, who at first was a skeptic, became a true believer in the horse's ability to demonstrate humanlike intelligence. Professor Stumpf felt the need to defend his professional competence in many ways: by defending his work on the September Commission and by assigning the student Pfungst to clear up the mess created by the report of the Commission. Pfungst, we have described.

And what of Hans and von Osten? What became of them after the Pfungst/ Stumpf report was issued? The report did exonerate von Osten of fraud, but in the process it destroyed Hans's popular reputation as a thinking horse. When the report was published, Stumpf's reputation was restored or, at least, the Commission Report was forgotten, and Pfungst carried on with his human research on suggestion. For Hans and von Osten, however, life would never be the same.

In this chapter, we learn something more about von Osten and his relationship with Hans and Pfungst, about what became of Hans after his master died and how Hans's new owner, Hr. Karl Krall, developed Hans's talents. The chapter is both a parallel and an extension of the previous chapter, sketching information regarding some of the people mentioned and telling us of Hans's new career. Its purpose is to show how human belief shapes our theories and myths about the mind and behavior. I do not write of fraud or gullibility, but of how our expectations compel us to stack seemingly pure research questions toward the answers that fit our perceptions, at first trivially, but eventually blatantly. In short, the meaning of an experiment is not completely known without knowledge of the investigator's motives and perceptions.

-134-

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