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They're Smarter Than We Think

Check out the wonderful story on the state of the study of animal cognition with luscious animal portraits by Vincent J. Musi in the current issue of National Geographic (April 2008). The report—which features a pair of smarty-pants Border Collies, of course—explores how more and more we realize "we are not alone in our ability to invent or plan or to contemplate ourselves—or even to plot and lie."

What I found especially interesting was how human cognition science reacts to discoveries in the animal realm. After one researcher complains that folks on the human side constantly raise the bar on what constitutes uniquely human cognition, Virginia Morell writes:

Whenever [animal researchers] find a mental skill in a species that is reminiscent of a special human ability, the human cognition scientists change the definition. But the animal researchers may underestimate their power—it is their discoveries that compel the human side to shore up the divide.

I wonder, why maintaining the divide so all-fired important?

Lisa Wogan

March 20, 2008 in Current Affairs, Dogs and science, Science | Permalink

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Comments

Thanks Lisa for mentioning the "Animal Minds" feature in National Geographic (I work there). The animal portraits are wonderful, but NatGeo is also looking for readers to send in photos and stories about their smart pets, and they will pick the best ones to publish on their website. Surely there are some BARkblog readers out there with intelligent dogs? (they don't have to be border collies!)
More info here: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/user-generated/animal-minds/

Posted by: Marilyn Terrell | Mar 21, 2008 10:10:25 AM

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