Geese, Metabolism, Embodied Cognition

Here are three articles that each suggest how important energy is to every aspect of existence, most importantly cognition. My point being that the current tendency in behaviorism to read rational processes into the minds of dogs is off the mark because an energetic logic hasn’t been pursued to its logical exhaustion before ascribing rational thought to dogs. Cognitive theorists immediately ascribe rational thoughts such as possessiveness, dominance, submission, territoriality, control, etc., when observing complex social behavior.
By way of introduction I want to relate an experience I had while canoeing where the West River joins the Connecticut River in Brattleboro, Vermont. The confluence forms a large open water where migrating birds layover. While paddling about, a large flock of geese were flying overhead honking excitedly as they were preparing to land. They made several large slow orbits, becoming more and more excited as they were trying to touch down but were heavily buffeted by a strong wind and so they had to make several passes getting all the more agitated. It was like watching a 747 with a 300 foot wingspan trying to negotiate an approach to a runway that wasn’t easily accessible. Why wouldn’t the geese just break ranks and come down singly and quickly, just like what the hundreds of ducks were doing, and just like the straggling geese were doing as they came in singly or in small groups? The geese in the large V couldn’t because their minds are configured as if they are a single entity, a group mind, their V formation being a behavioral embodiment of how their minds are configured. Thus it couldn’t occur to them, except I would presume under the harshest of conditions, to de-pixelate and act singly.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/21/science/bird-data-confirms-that-vs-help-save-energy.html?ref=science

This second article examines how the long life of humans is related to metabolism. Since so much of the human mind and its capacities would be predicated on lifespan, for example the time available for a prolonged childhood, and so here’s more evidence that the most basic strictures of energy serve as the building blocks for behavior.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/21/science/longer-life-span-tied-to-energy-use-in-primates.html?ref=science&_r=0

Finally, this article courtesy of Dr. Jean-Marie Thompson, is an excellent survey of embodied cognition. In short the body does more than carry the head around.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/11/04/a-brief-guide-to-embodied-cognition-why-you-are-not-your-brain/

Since the laws of motion, electromagnetism and thermodynamics are predicates of the physical body, we should be exhausting this line of inquiry before ascribing rational thought processes to the behavior of dogs. Most theorists when they encounter remarkable examples of intelligence in animals, immediately ascribe it to human rational processes. But now we’re beginning to understand that higher rational processes are themselves predicated on physical processes of the body. In other words, many abilities we once thought were uniquely human, when found in animals, does not mean we’re finding the human in the animal, but rather the animal in the human. It’s not that animals are more like us than we once thought, but that we’re more like animals than we once thought.

Published January 21, 2014 by Kevin Behan
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