General Question

Blondesjon's avatar

Does anyone believe in "animal psychology"?

Asked by Blondesjon (33984points) February 10th, 2009
45 responses
“Great Question” (0points)

I am a firm believer in animal intelligence.

That said, I put no faith whatsoever in the snake oil salespitch that is human psychology. To claim there is an animal equivalent that certain professionals are versed in is…well it’s insane.

Observing members: 0
Composing members: 0

Answers

delirium's avatar

Do I believe that someones cat needs therapy? No. I do, however, think that many households could benefit from learning how their pet’s brain actually works.

TaoSan's avatar

Animal behaviorist? Sure, why not. Animal psychologist? Naah, don’t think so…

Grisson's avatar

First two definitions in Dictionary.com:
1. the science of the mind or of mental states and processes.
2. the science of human and animal behavior.

Do animals have minds? mental states and processes? If so, then can’t they be studied?
Animals exhibit behavior. It can be studied.

That doesn’t mean you have to believe in it. But you could also ask if one believes in mathematics.

Blondesjon's avatar

@Grisson…What mathematical theorem describes what an animal is thinking? You, of course, will have to first help me in becoming fluent in the language the said animal speaks. Or should I assume there is some sort of ‘mind meld’ involved?

I guess I could base my opinion of the critter’s psyche on observation. My dogs are both fecalphiliac, manic-depressives suffering from both OCD and ADD.

delirium's avatar

@Blondesjon That’s on the assumption that an animals behavior and brain is the same as a humans. That would be as dangerous as any anthropomorphization of an animal when taken too far.

DrBill's avatar

I am a human psychologist, but I have never sold snake oil. It is posible to use psychology on any creature that has the ability to free think.

Blondesjon's avatar

@delirium…What other context, besides human, could you use in trying to figure out an animals mind. The very language your brain translates your observations with is human.

TaoSan's avatar

Ooops, here comes the next can of worms. Can animals “think” freely?

Blondesjon's avatar

@TaoSan and DrBill…What is free thinking?

TaoSan's avatar

@Blondesjon

A can of worms in itself

DrBill's avatar

Free thinking is going beyond instinct, a good indication is if the subject can be trained.

Grisson's avatar

@Blondesjon I guess the question is whether one believes that animal psychology can produce valid conclusions.

I just finished reading ‘Jennie’, a fictional account by Douglas Preston about a chimpanzee raised in a human family.

While the book was fiction, the research it was based on was not. (Jane Goodall, et al.) There is some evidence that the line between chimpanzees and humans isn’t as distinct as some would like to believe.

It’s an interesting read, and I recommend it if you want to get a perspective on what the current scientific view of Animal Psychology is, particularly where it pertains to language.

TaoSan's avatar

@DrBill

Free thinking requires rationalization (IMHO). I think between “instinct” an “thinking” there are certainly many steps in between. As for trainability, I think that mostly relates to conditioning, not reason.

delirium's avatar

@Blondesjon I was speaking in terms of comparison.

I usually consider play to be a sign of thinking. Self recognition to be a sign of true intelligence.

All animals, however, are decision making in one form or another.

Blondesjon's avatar

@Grisson…Ours is a semantic rift. You say psychology. I say Intelligence.

Hey! Your intelligence is in my psychology.
No, your psychology is in my intelligence.

great! now i want a peanut butter cup

Grisson's avatar

@Blondesjon <you are all right!>

TaoSan's avatar

Do you think dogs know “penis envy”?

Grisson's avatar

@TaoSan Nah… They can get an exagerated view of their own. (Wide angle distortion).

Blondesjon's avatar

@delirium…I do believe in animal intelligence. I just don’t believe that we can ever truly understand what is going on in an animal’s mind.

As I stated before, we only have a human phsyche’s context to draw from and I am a big believer in the observer affecting the experiment.

TaoSan's avatar

@Grisson

LOL, nice one :)

Blondesjon's avatar

@TaoSan…Dogs might know ‘penis envy’...can you hum a few bars?

TaoSan's avatar

I mean the original Freudian envy, not “sword fights” or bands, lol

wundayatta's avatar

@BlondesjonI do believe in animal intelligence. I just don’t believe that we can ever truly understand what is going on in an animal’s mind.

Can you know what’s going on in another person’s mind?
Mmathematical theorem? Please. You want to throw out all of social science? I hate to break it to you, but some functions are probabilistic, not based on mathematical relationships. Hell, this is as much true in physics as it is in any social science.

Look, if human behavior is a science, and it is, animal behavior is also a science. An animal “psychologist” is an animal behavioralist with a fancy name. Humans “speak” with body language. So do animals. Humans “speak” with sounds. So do animals. It is not trivial science, but with work, science can tell us a lot about what animals “mean” when they behave in various ways. Can you do that with humans? Not with as much accuracy.

If one understands the scientific method, one can “believe” in animal psychology. If one does not “believe” in science… well, I don’t know how to communicate with someone like that.

Blondesjon's avatar

@daloon…I’ll try not to grunt and click so much in my savage, pidgeon tounge.

I understand the “scientific method”. thank you for speaking slowly so I could follow

If I’m not mistaken, wasn’t this same “behaviorilist scientific method” employed in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century to explain that it was scientific fact that blacks were inferior to whites?

It’s this blind loyalty
to psychology as a science, which has never once proven a thing, that makes it difficult for me to communicate.

Observation doesn’t show you what an animal is thinking or feeling. It shows you an animal’s physical reaction to stimuli.

“That dog is scratching behind his ear because it itches.”
“He is also scratching because he hated his father and has abandonment issues.”

Grisson's avatar

@Blondesjon Who are you kidding! He hardly knew his father!

wundayatta's avatar

I’m sorry @blondesjon. I didn’t mean to condescend to you. I also don’t think there’s much I can add that will fruitfully continue this conversation.

Bri_L's avatar

I think you can understand why an animal reacts by watching it physically. And try and help it change its pattern of behavior. That is how they turn abused pets around isn’t it?

If you walk into a quiet room and a large dog cowers to the corner where other dogs of it’s kind would advance to great or inspect you, you would be safe to conclude that dog is thinking it is going to be hurt or abused. It fears you.

If you replace the dog with a human does that physical reaction change to an emotional one just because it is a human?

Zaku's avatar

Blondesjon, per your original question, it depends on what you mean. I think people can learn to form understandings of animals, but I don’t think animal behavioural science is very complete or accurate. Though there have been many interesting observations made, I find the conclusions often way off the understandings that I or others who live or work with animals have. I don’t know exactly what you mean by believing in animal psychology, but I expect I have a similar level of skepticism to yours.

Blondesjon's avatar

@Zaku…Thank you for “skeptical”. I think I dropped the ball using believe. such a strangely inflammatory word

lurve

Blondesjon's avatar

@Grisson…And his mother was a bitch…

Blondesjon's avatar

@Bri_L…I agree you can figure out what they are scared of, but I am skeptical of how why they are scared is determined.

90s_kid's avatar

Have you seen the Gorilla that could talk sign language? Amazing…

Sakata's avatar

No but I’ve seen a few monkey’s that could type.

90s_kid's avatar

Like you?
KIDDING!
Hey, now we’re even.

Bri_L's avatar

@Blondesjon do you mean that you don’t believe that you can determine a dog was probably abused based on the normal activity of it’s breed if it cowers and whimpers in a corner when people walk into a room? Isn’t the what people and the why mistreatment?

Sakata's avatar

@The Kid: lurve

tiffyandthewall's avatar

i don’t really know, this is a pretty broad question. of course animals have minds, intelligence (as you said), behaviours, problem solving techniques (even if they aren’t as complex as ours, they still have to figure things out for themselves), perception, etc.
animal psychologists though? i don’t buy into that (for the most part). i think they’re just taking advantage of loving pet owners. am i sure? definitely not. i don’t know, well, anything about animal psychology, except that they can be classically conditioned.
and human psychological experiments are almost always performed on animals first, so i assume that animals do have a similar mind-set as us, at least to some extent.

Blondesjon's avatar

@Bri_L…What if they’re simply scared of opening doors?

Bri_L's avatar

@Blondesjon – ok, I was asking because I didn’t understand your statement. I can tell by your comment, which allows for obvious alternatives that exclude that as the issue, your done discussing this with me.

Bri_L's avatar

Also, I just reread that you don’t believe in human psychology. That means we have no common grounds for discussion.

Blondesjon's avatar

@Bri_L…I still lurve you and your new avatar :)

nebule's avatar

I love this question, but can i come back to it in a couple of months time when I’ve studied that area of my philosophy course… ???

that said… yes i believe in both animal intelligence and psychology… for now anyway…

Bri_L's avatar

@Blondesjon And I lurve you and that we can disagree and get along!

j0ey's avatar

There is this psychologist called Silvan Tomkins, who actually made a fortune working as a handicapper for a horse racing syndicate by predicting how horses would do based on the kind of horses they were running beside…he based his predictions on the emotional relationships between the horses….for example if a male horse lost to a mare in his early years, he would do badly running beside a mare in later years.

And certainly abused animals can become depressed; although the most correct term for this would be that they are experiencing “learned helplessness”. Animals in this state even respond positively to antidepressants (anyone who has learnt anything about behavioral psychology would know this).

Obviously relocating great apes and other highly intelligent animals effectively from zoo to zoo would take a deep understanding of what the animal needs not only physically, but also mentally.

Of course animal psychology exists, just as human psychology exists. I’m sure there are some “animal psychologists” that are “snake oil salesmen” (perhaps someone that charges $200 to tell you Fido urinates on the carpet because his mother didn’t love him as much as the other pups in the litter). But come on people, even a limited amount of reading on the subject will reveal that animal psychology exists. Arguing that it doesn’t exist is basically arguing that human psychology doesn’t exist.

Answer this question

Login

or

Join

to answer.

Mobile | Desktop


Send Feedback   

`