Animal vs. Human Cognition
Animal cognition is used to refer to the mental capabilities that are possessed by non human animals. Over the years, there has been concern over the presence of intelligence in in animals. Animals that present some sense of intelligence are mammals especially primates, cetaceans and elephants. On the other hand, other vertebrates such as birds which include parrots and pigeons as well as some species of fish have demonstrated some extend of reason in their behaviors (Griffin, 2002). Despite the fact that earlier studies differentiate human beings and animals on the basis of cognitive abilities possessed by human beings, current studies on animals behaviors indicate that animals such as elephants posses cognitive abilities.
Classical and operant conditioning are methods that have been used in determining the levels of cognition that are presented by animals. Animals in this cased present human related mental processes. Knowledge on animals’ behaviors in their natural habitats presents cognitive behavior in relation to animals’ as a reaction towards stimuli of different kinds. In this case, animals present cognitive abilities and this is against previous claims that animals do not have brain capabilities.
Elephants are among the worlds most intelligent species. The brain of an elephant weighs over five kilograms and it is similar to that of human in structure and complexity. Both African and Asian have very large and high convulsed brain just like human and apes and this acts as a sign of complex intelligence.
When elephants weep, converses with Koko they crack-up all document efforts by psychologists and psychiatrists to study animal cognition, these works challenge earlier distinctions between human and animal thought processes. The cerebral cortexes that are possessed by elephants enable them achieve some form of intelligence and therefore they posses some capabilities just like that of human. Extensive studies that have been carried out on elephants place them on the same class with apes which used tools to carry out particular processes.
On the other hand, elephant present problem solving capabilities and these challenge earlier findings by scientists that the difference between animals and human beings is ability of human beings to reason when faced with different option, an act which is not presented by animals. The hippocampus of elephant brain is highly convulsed and therefore it has the ability to reason and act appropriately. Despite the fact that earlier studies present animals as lacking cognitive abilities, the brain of an elephant just like that of human beings grow with age.
Elephants learn particular behaviors as they grow up which is still the same case with human beings. They are not born with instincts on how to survive but adopt behaviors depending on the stimuli that they are subjected to (Griffin, 2002). Elephants are not born with the instinct on how to survive and therefore experience a long process of learning through out their lives through a process of reason. Just like the human brain grows as children develop, it is also the same case with most mammals and therefore earlier claims that animals do not posses cognitive abilities is debatable.
The development of intelligence behavior among elephants is attributed to spindle cells which play a key role in brain development. Initially, it was thought that the presence of spindle neurons was unique to humans and the great apes. Subsequent studies however show that the brain of Asian and African elephants contain spindle neurons (Shettleworth, 1998). The remarkable similarity between the elephant brain and the human brain supports the thesis of convergent evolution whereby animals are regarded as possessing similar traits to that of animals.
In addition, elephants present family relationships as they are closely knit in matriarchal family. This aspect is presented in the case that they can be devastated by the death of their relatives. This is a common behavior among human beings who usually mourn the death of a loved one. For example mothers, after the death of her calf, walk sluggishly at the back of a family for many days. This act by the elephant to show attachment towards their next of kin is a demonstration of cognitive abilities.
Not only do elephant present reasoning abilities but also they are though to be highly altruistic when in distress.an example of this can be demonstrated by a cased when an Indian elephant was helping locals lift logs by following a truck and placing the logs in pre-dug holes upon instruction from the trainer. At a certain hole, the elephant refused to lower the log. The trainer came to investigate the hold up and noticed a dog sleeping in the hole. The elephant only lowered the log when the dog was gone. This example demonstrates that elephants posses a feeling of sympathy and protect the sanctity of life just like human beings.
Another demonstration of cognitive ability among elephant’s is the ability to carry out self medication. They chew trees they hold as medicinal trees which are used by herbal doctors in cure of illnesses (Romanes, 2004). On the other hand, elephants also carry out death rituals in cases of death of their own. This is a character possessed by the Homo sapiens who are human beings in the evolution cycle. Elephants play and even mimicry sounds that they hear.
There are various ethical dilemmas raised by animals on the way we define consciousness and the way animal are used in experiments. The cognitive ability of animals such as elephants presents animals to be in possession of cognitive abilities and therefore the use of animals in scientific research and experimentations controversial. The results that are yielded while experimenting with animals may not be objective since the possession of cognitive capabilities by animals may make them act in a manner that will affect the results of the research.
The use of animals in carrying out scientific research and perform surgical procedures on them is an ethically important issue. Subjecting animals to extreme pain and suffering is against the animal rights that have been set up by organizations that are concerned about the welfare of animals. On the other hand, life is sacred and should not be taken away in a brutal manner. The manner in which animals are subjected to extensive pain and suffering is not morally acceptable since that is an act of brutality.
On the other hand, the use of animals in scientific research attracts the attention of activists who advocate for the rights of animals’ since such acts subject animals to extreme pain and suffering and yet they have reasoning capabilities that are possessed by human beings. The article points out those animals are mistreated while testing is being carries out on them (Shettleworth, 1998). Despite the fact these tests are very useful; animals should not be abused while carrying out the tests. It is against animal rights to carry out these tests on animals since this act as incidences of animal mishandling
The ethical issue underlying in this situation is that exposing animals to torture and suffering during scientific research is not justified since it causes pain and suffering to them. Scientific researchers therefore are put at the crossroads since they are obliged to use alternative methods to carry out research of drugs and surgical procedures that do not subject animals to pain and suffering.