Do Animals Tell Stories?
2013 01 16

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

Hungary’s Orban Bashes Liberal Immigration Policy
2014 08 29
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Monday lashed out against immigration, setting one of the main policy objectives of his next term in power after winning parliamentary elections in April. “The goal is to cease immigration whatsoever,” said Hungary’s prime minister. “I think the current liberal immigration policy, which is considered obvious and morally based, is hypocrite,” Mr. Orban said. At a ...
China’s “Duplitecture” Cities Mimic the World’s Greatest Architectural Hits
2014 08 29
The best knockoffs in the world are in China. There are plenty of fake designer handbags and Rolexes, but China’s knockoffs go way beyond fashion. There are knockoff Apple stores that look so much like the real thing that some employees believe they are working in real Apple stores. And then there are entire knockoff cities. There are Venices with ...
Kiev loses control of Novoazovsk, rebel troops advance in southeast Ukraine
2014 08 29
Kiev’s troops had to leave the eastern Ukrainian city of Novoazovsk to save their lives, said the country’s Security and Defense Council. The authorities admitted that self-defense forces are advancing and leading a counteroffensive in the southeast. Along with Novoazovsk, Kiev troops have lost control over the villages of Amvrosiivka and Starobeshevo in the Donetsk Region of Eastern Ukraine. According to Ukraine’s ...
Mohammed is most popular name in Oslo
2014 08 29
For the first time in the capital city’s history, Mohammed is the most common name for boys and men, said a study on Thursday. Statistics Norway (Statistisk Sentralbyrå - SSB) has counted the population of Oslo and found that Mohammed is the most common male name in Oslo for the first time ever. Jørgen Ouren of SSB said to NRK: “It is ...
Beaten to Death at McDonald’s
2014 08 29
To the four clean-cut college freshman out on a double date, it had seemed like a typical McDonald’s: spanking clean, well-lighted, and safe. It was in a good neighborhood too, right next to Texas A&M University in College Station -- a campus known for its friendly atmosphere and official down-home greeting: “howdy.” Shortly after 2 A.M. that Sunday, they pulled into ...
More News »