Study of the problem of "thinking", or the rational activity...

Study of the problem of "thinking", or rational activity of animals

Beginning of research

Since the earliest stages of the development of the science of behavior, many scientists have spoken with confidence about the presence of elements of intelligence in animals. As mentioned above, the concept "mind" used mainly as an alternative to the concept of "instinct". The presence of reason was explained by any individual forms of adaptive behavior, in the overwhelming majority of cases associated with learning.

The assumption of the presence of a rudiment of reason in animals was expressed by Charles Darwin, who believed that along with instincts and associations, animals also possessed the "ability to reason". In discussing this question in the "Origin of Man," he emphasized that "the difference between the psyche of man and higher animals, no matter how large, is, of course, the difference in degree, and not in quality."

The hypothesis about the presence of elements of thinking in animals was of fundamental importance for Darwin in connection with the solution of the question of the origin of man. However, since its inception, this hypothesis has raised serious objections and has not yet received definitive recognition from physiologists, psychologists, and especially philosophers. One of the reasons for this is the fear of being accused of anthropomorphism, the other is the dogmatic conviction of the uniqueness of the higher mental functions of man. In connection with this, studies of the problem of animal thinking have always been less numerous than the analysis of other forms of behavior.

AN Severtsov spoke about the existence of rational activity in animals in his book "Evolution and the psyche" (1922).

He wrote that animals besides instincts and simple conditioned reflexes have a type of behavior that can be characterized as reasonable, which progressively develops in the evolutionary series and is an important factor in the evolutionary process.

At the beginning of the XX century. E. Thorndike, who considered the ability to learn the main indicator of intelligence, observing the solution of problems in the conditions of the experiment, came to the conclusion that the intelligence of animals allows them to act only by trial and error and gradually learn the correct reaction. In his monograph, Animal intelligence (1911) was not about the very beginnings of thinking, but only about this side of the intelligence of animals. This was the first systematic experimental study of the higher mental functions of animals under controlled laboratory conditions.

Based on experiments on the training of rats in different types of labyrinths, the American psychologist E. Tolman (1886-1959) came to the conclusion that the behaviourist scheme "stimulus-reaction" is insufficient to describe behavior as a whole, since it reduces all its diversity to a set of elementary responses to stimuli. To explain the results of his experiments, Tolman suggested that while in a labyrinth, the animal learns to identify the semantic links between the elements of the environment, which he called stimuli. Thus, in different types of experiments on the training of rats, Tolman showed that animals acquire information about the general characteristics of the experimental chamber or labyrinth, although at first this does not affect behavior in any way. In the process of learning, the animal acquires knowledge ( cognition) about all the details of the situation, saves them in the form of internal representations and can use it at the right time. An animal forms a cognitive map, or "mental plan", of all the characteristics of the labyrinth, and then it builds its behavior on it. Mental Plan can be created in the absence of reinforcement.

Edward Tolman

Edward Tolman

Adhering to the behavioral scheme as a whole, the "stimulus-reaction" to explain the results of his experiments, E. Tolman came to the conclusion that the links between stimuli and behavioral responses are not direct, but mediated. They are modified, modified by so-called intermediate variables, which wedge between the stimulus and the response, determining the nature of its flow. Among the intermediate variables, a large place is occupied by psychological phenomena, for example, such as motivation and the formation of mental representations.

This concept is based on the recognition of purposefulness in animal behavior. Tolman suggested that the animal learns to reveal what leads to what, and what it assimilates can also be detected externally, in the form of some activity (reaction), but is stored in memory in the form of representations or images . The concept of E. Tolman formed the basis of a new direction in psychology, called neobieviorizm.

Tolman's idea of ​​the existence in animals of some "presentation process" was consistent with the data previously obtained by the American psychologist W. Hunter. To study this ability, he proposed an delayed reaction method, which allowed us to assess to what extent the animal is able to respond to the memory of the stimulus in the absence of this real stimulus.

Tolman's representations underlie almost all modern studies of cognitive processes in animals. The main results of his research were set forth in the monograph "Targeted behavior of animals and humans". (1932). Tolman's ideas were further developed in the works of a number of his followers.

In domestic physiology similar ideas developed AND. S. Beritashvili (Beritov) (1884-1974) - one of the largest domestic physiologists, the founder of the Georgian school of physiology. In developing his views, he was able to avoid the direct pressure of the official Pavlovian doctrine, while remaining at the same time for some time in the positions of the reflex theory. Beritashvili conducted a series of studies on dogs, in which he demonstrated the ability of them to form spatial representations, which he named the term behavior, guided image and psychoneous images objects of the external environment. As a matter of fact, these concepts were very close to the ideas of Gestalt psychology, but in order to distance themselves from the psychological approach and thus avoid accusations of idealism, another terminology was used - the term "psychoneous", according to Beritashvili, emphasized the materialistic nature of the phenomenon.

And. S. Beritashvili (1932) believed that many forms of behavior are regulated by a holistic "representation", or "way" the external environment in which the animal is located. In this view reflect those objects of the environment that are essential for the organization of behavior. Required knowledge is acquired in the process of active orienting and research activity and stored in memory.

And. S. Beritashvili distinguished the following types of behavior:

• innate (instinctive);

• Individual behavior guided by images;

• Automated individual-acquired (conditioned-reflex) behavior.

The concept of Beritashvili had many elements in common with the modern concept of cognitive maps created by Tolman and developed since the 1970s. neurophysiologists in the West.

The works of Beritashvili's school, along with Tolman's works, are at the root of modern studies of cognitive processes in animals.

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