Do Animals Tell Stories?
2013-01-16 0:00

By Ross Pomeroy | RealClearScience.com



A litany of stories is told within the human mind each day. In a form of "mental time travel," we consciously reconstruct past events to help instruct our present actions.

For example, you might recall that Aunt Margie’s garlic potatoes, served at your family’s last holiday party, were a little heavy on the cream and butter. After devouring three helpings, you became bloated and gassy. Thus, if the dish is served again this year, you’ll scarf only one helping, instead. (Okay, maybe two.)

The process of recalling past situations in narrative detail is called episodic memory. You remember when the event happened, where it happened, what was involved and other context-specific information. These facts come together to form an internal story of sorts.

As far as we know, most other animals do not have episodic memory. Endel Tulving, the influential cognitive psychologist who was the first to differentiate episodic memory from other types, says that animals can adjust, adapt, and learn, but they cannot "travel back into the past in their own minds."

But there are scientists who are working to build a convincing case to the contrary. In a 2006 review, German researchers at Heinrich-Heine-University agglomerated 30 studies examining episodic-like memory in numerous species. According to animal behaviorist, Dr. Patricia McConnell:

In one study cited in the paper (Menzel 1999), a language-trained chimpanzee observed a caretaker hiding a food beyond the fence of the enclosure, out of reach of the chimp. Sixteen hours later, the chimp recruited a different caretaker, who did not know where the food had been hidden, indicated the kind of food hidden and directed the caretaker to the food itself.


In this fascinating instance, the chimp was not only able to recall what it had witnessed, but was able to impart that information -- the when, where and what -- to a human.

More compelling evidence for animal episodic memory originated from a study on scrub jays (medium-sized social birds similar to bluejays). These birds are commonly known to store food in various locations within their territories, over elongated spans of time. Such behavior obviously requires excellent memory.

[...]


Read the full article at: realclearscience.com





Related Articles
6 Terrifying Ways Crows Are Way Smarter Than You Think
Crows as Clever as Great Apes, Study Says
Great Ape language
Whales and dolphins are so intelligent they deserve same rights as humans, say experts
Clever Canines: Germany’s educated dogs
Smart US dog learns more than 1,000 words


Latest News from our Front Page

Police Attacked by Mob in Cincinnati, Rescue White Man from Black Beatdown
2015-07-07 0:28
Cincinnati police form a line against mob violence July 4, 2015. Photo: Cincy vs Everyone Fireworks, rocks, bottles and punches were thrown at Cincinnati police by a mob of people gathered for a Fourth of July hip hop and electronica concert late Saturday night. Several officers were wounded including one who needed stitches after a thrown glass bottle struck him in ...
California Rabbi Calls on Amazon to Cease Selling Books on Holocaust Denial
2015-07-07 0:47
A Sacramento rabbi has called on Amazon to ban the sale of books promoting Holocaust denial, CBS Sacramento reported on Friday. “Blatant anti-Semitism,” said Sacramento Rabbi Mendy Cohen, according to the report. “To deny the Holocaust is another mask of blatant anti-Semitism.” Among the books for sale to Amazon customers are titles such as Did Six Million Die? The Truth at Last and The Myth ...
Inna Shevchenko: Naked Breasts Are Political Weapons
2015-07-06 23:46
Inna Shevchenko, the leader of the Femen movement, is not an obscure individual in Europe and much of the Western world. She once bragged: “I’m proud to say we brought the idea of feminism and women’s rights to a politically ignorant part of the world like Ukraine, Russia, Belarus. And I’m proud to say I think we brought feminism back on to ...
Cleric said to be behind Tunisian beach massacre is living on benefits in Britain
2015-07-06 23:11
Cleric said to be behind Tunisian beach massacre is living on benefits in Britain A leader of the terrorist group suspected of being behind the Tunisian beach massacre is living on benefits in Britain. Hani al-Sibai, an al-Qaeda cleric suspected of radicalising "Jihadi John", lives in a £1 million house leafy street in fashionable west London. He is said to be one of ...
Bakers Facing $135K Fine Over Wedding Cake for Same-Sex Couple Speak Out
2015-07-06 23:57
(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));A Daily Signal Exclusive: Bakers Facing $135K Fine Over Wedding Cake for Same-Sex Couple Speak OutPosted by The Daily Signal on Monday, April 27, 2015 From the video source: Bakers Facing $135K ...
More News »