TEMPLE GRANDIN: Now the thing about animals as there's behavior that's instinctual and there's behavior that's learned. If you raised lambs on a nanny goat, when those ram lambs grow up, they will try to breed with goats.
Bird mating rituals are an example of completely hard-wired behavior. The modern word is "fixed-action pattern." I like the old-fashioned word "instinct." I also like to call them nature's little software programs. And he will fluff up his rear end and she'll fluff up her rear end, he struts around, and it just is sort of like an interacting pair of computer programs. Doesn't require any thinking.
And in a horse, if the little foal nursing, that stimulates the hard-wired grooming behavior. And just demonstrate that really is hard-wired, if you have a mare that's got a foal and you scratch around the udder next to the gate, she'll do it to the gate. Now that's very brainless behavior. That doesn't mean that a horse is not capable of thinking.
Well, and animals definitely can do learned behavior such as figuring out how to break fences. The only reason why cattle and horses don't break out of fences is because they don't know they can. And most of them never learn.
Do animals have true thinking? Cognition or thinking is the ability to solve problems under new conditions. This is the definition of thinking that Marian Stamp Dawkins has. It's a definition I really like. She likes to define cognition by what it's not. It's not operant or classical conditioning, simple associative learning like a rat a Skinner box or clicker training your dog. That simple associative learning. That doesn't require thinking.
It's also not the hard-wired instinctual behavior of these little software programs. Your dog will do that little play bow. That's instinctual. Bulls will do the flaming when they smell a female on estrus and they go like that. That is a hard-wired behavior.
There's been some very interesting experiments on thinking and cognition in birds. And some experiments that were published in Science demonstrated that a crow could figure out how to bend the paperclip to get a little bucket out of a tube. There's a little bucket hidden down a tube, and the crow would bend the wire to get out the bucket.
And the way this experiment was done is you first start out giving the crow bent paperclips. It learns how to do it. Then one day you give it straight ones and it gets really frustrated putting it down in there, and putting it down in there. Then one day it sticks it in a crack and bends it. Now that is problem solving. Now the female crow did it and her boyfriend just stole it all.
Another group of interesting experiments have involved blue jays. And blue jays live in a lab, like to hide the worm treats from other jays, and they hide them in ice cube trays that are filled up with sawdust. Now the jays know when another jay is looking, and they wait until the other jay turns away, when he's not looking. Then they hide the worm treat.
And there's a lot of controversy in the autism field about theory of mind and knowing what's going on in other people's minds. Well, this jay certainly knows that if the other bird sees where he hides this treat, it's going to get ripped off.
And they also have done some further experiments that show how the jays can plan for the future and store some food in a room that they're going to be in the future so they'll have some breakfast the next morning.
Another big question is consciousness. There are some philosophers that think that you have to have a language in order to be fully conscious. I go that's just ridiculous. See for me, language narrates the slideshow that's in my brain.
Now I think the beginning of consciousness is the orienting response. I'm sure you've all seen a deer. A deer hears the sound and he goes and he looks like that. And he looks, and while he's doing that, he makes a decision. Do I keep looking? Do I run away? Or do I graze? There's a decision made. It's not a reflex like you scratched the horse on the belly and it groomed the colt. That's instinctual, and it's not a reflex like pulling your hand off a hot stove. That's just a reflex. It's making a decision between different choices. That's the beginning of thinking.
Quite a few years ago we did an experiment where sheep had a choice. And they could either go down and be held in a tilt table or there was this dreadful thing, a cell phone an electronic immobilizer that was advertised as a humane way to restrain animals that just shocks them. It's just absolutely awful.
And I wanted to show that this was really bad, so we gave the sheep a choice between a tilt table for hoof trimming or this dreadful immobilizer thing, put them in a chute that had a Y, and the sheep could go down one side to the shocker and the other side to the tilt table. And you give him a choice. Well, after they experienced both sides, the sheep would come up to the decision point and they'd go like this.
Well, that's not reflex. She was trying to remember which way to go. And they chose the tilt table. In fact, I was able to train the sheep to voluntarily go on the tilt table for food treat. They didn't think the full table was bad at all.
See, in my mind, I can see that decision-making process in my mind. I don't have any subconscious. I've got no Freudian subconscious. I see all the Freudian stuff, little web pages pop up here and there, but I know better than to talk about them.
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Join Dr. Temple Grandin as she offers new insights on life with autism and how this unique perspective has helped her to develop award-winning techniques for handling livestock.
This video is part 7 of 8 in the Autism & Animal Behaviors series.