Thinking across Cultures

By Donald M. Topping; Doris C. Crowell et al. | Go to book overview

cognition is qualitatively different from nonhuman cognition? Or is human language another module or component that augments, but does not significantly modify, the shape of human cognition?

Given our current state of ignorance, it is difficult to ask, much less answer, the foregoing questions intelligently. An important first step, however, is to become more aware of our preconceived anthropocentric assumptions. In this regard, a viable cognitive ethology becomes a valuable ally. As cognitive ethologists continue to develop techniques that are better adapted to the needs and realities of nonhumans, they continue to discover that nonhumans have a hitherto unsuspected range of mental skills. By determining what can and cannot be thought about in the absence of human language, we may come to a clearer understanding of the nature of cognitive structures and processes. In addition, we may come to fuller understanding of the role of human language in human thought. In this way, a focus on the animal mind and on our biological heritage can enrich the understanding of human and nonhuman cognition alike.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Conference travel was supported, in part, by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Travel Fund. Many thanks to Adele Abrahamsen, Christine Arlett, and Graham Skanes for their thoughtful comments on the manuscript.


REFERENCES

Anderson R. E. ( 1986). Cognitive explanations and cognitive ethology. In W. Bechtel (Ed.), Integrating scientific disciplines (pp. 323-336). Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff.

Blough D. S. ( 1984). Form recognition in pigeons. In H. L. Roitblat, T. G. Bever, & H. S. Terrace (Eds.), Animal cognition (pp. 277-289). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Bruce D. ( 1985). "The how and why of ecological memory". Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 114, 78-90.

Cohen G. ( 1983). The psychology of cognition ( 2nd ed.). New York: Academic Press.

Cornell E. H. ( 1984). Developmental continuity of memory mechanisms: Suggestive phenomena. In R. Kail & N. E. Spear (Eds.), Comparative perspectives on the development of memory (pp. 287-316). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Dennett D. C. ( 1983). Intentional systems in cognitive ethology: The "Panglossian paradigm" defended. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 6, 343-390.

Fodor J. A. ( 1981). Representations. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, A Bradford Book.

Gallup G. G., Jr., & Suarez S. D. ( 1983). Overcoming our resistance to animal research: Man in comparative perspective. In D. W. Rajecki (Ed.), Comparing behavior: Studying man studying animals (pp. 5-26). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Glass A. L., & Holyoak K. J. ( 1986). Cognition ( 1st, 2nd ed.). New York: Random House.

Griffin D. R. ( 1976, 1981). The question of animal awareness ( 1st, 2nd eds.). New York: Rockefeller University Press.

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