Airdate: Nov 15, 2011
KSC Animal Smarts - Thinking
What sets humans apart from dogs? It's probably not what - or how - you think!
Animal Smarts - Thinking
Music; Ambiance: Pantanal - dawn chorus
Hare: "Many times, surprisingly, animals are very much like you and me in the way that they think."
What makes us humans different from other animals? Scientists used to think it was our use of tools, but we've learned that other animals like chimpanzees and even crows use tools. So what's the difference between us and them? Could it be the way we think? I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Hare: "Many people have dogs and other pets. And probably you like me have always wondered, what is my pet thinking? Does it think just like me? Is it thinking about what I'm thinking? Can it solve the same kind of problems that I can solve? Does it understand me when I talk? Does it love me? Does it have feelings like I have feelings? And these are sort of the type of questions we ask."
Brian Hare is an evolutionary anthropologist and the head of Duke University's Canine Cognition Center.
Hare: "We're really interested in what's going on inside the mind of an animal. And the reason that that's really important is that first of all it helps us learn about ourselves. Because what we'd really like to know as humans is: We're kind of a special species, so a lot of people are really interested in why is it that we're so different from all the other animals. So people have ideas about that and they say oh okay here's an idea. I think that animals can only think themselves but they can't think about what you're thinking. And so then what we go test animals and see: Can they think about what others are thinking? Sometimes we find out the person who had the idea was wrong. It ends up animals can think about what others are thinking. So if animals can think about others thinking, it must not be really the important thing about humans that makes us do all these special things."
What makes us different from other animals? We'll learn more in our next program. Brian Hare is one of the participants in the Kids' Science Challenge, our nationwide competition for third to sixth graders, made possible by the National Science Foundation. Check it out at kidsciencechallenge.com. I'm Jim Metzner.