Discussion: Animal Studies of Complex Mental Abilities
Some behavioral researchers study the complex mental abilities of other species. For example, the language capacity of chimpanzees has been the subject of intense scientific scrutiny (and debate) for decades. Other topics in animal research include counting, tool use, and problem solving. Why do researchers study these abilities in other species? Can such studies reveal anything of importance about complex mental abilities in humans? And if researchers use animals in research, what ethical or moral obligations do they have toward the animals?
In this Discussion, you will opine on your belief about animals and awareness and compare that to the awareness of humans. You will also comment on the ethical implications of animal research.
To prepare for this Discussion:
- Review the assigned chapters in Brain and Behavior and the other Learning Resources, paying special attention to the discussion of research of complex mental abilities using animals and the rationale(s) given for such studies.
- Think about whether or not you believe that animals actually have an awareness of their actions, given what you have read.
- Consider the ethics involved in such animal research. What do you see as its value? Are there good reasons for conducting such research? How would you justify it?
With these thoughts in mind:
Post your thoughts about whether or not animals are conscious or aware of their actions. First, describe what you mean by aware or conscious. These terms have many meanings, so it would be good to be clear about how you are using the term. Then, based on the Learning Resources, describe higher cognitive functions in animals in terms of language, learning and memory, tool use, planning, or other similar functions. What do these functions in animals tell us about higher cognitive functions in humans? Justify your answer by referencing the scientific literature and this week’s Learning Resources. Then, weigh in on the value and ethics of conducting animal research on complex mental abilities. Again, explain and justify your responses with references to the scientific literature and this week’s Learning Resources. While you are welcome to include a short anecdote about a pet to support your answer, please use scientific sources to justify your positions.
Support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources and any additional sources you identify using both in-text citations and complete references in APA format.