SPARCS Conference and Social Signals

CRITICAL THINKING IN DOGDOM

”Many theories have been advanced but there is a mass of confusion about social signaling among animals,” Dr. Weldon said. ”Mimicry of age, alarm calls and other characteristics, as well as sex, often cause misperceptions among observing researchers.”

http://www.nytimes.com/1985/02/19/science/guile-and-deception-the-evolution-of-animal-courtship.html?pagewanted=2

 

Another SPARCS conference on the canine mind is being held in Rhode Island this weekend. Last year I was criticized for criticizing the conference proceedings based on an article I read rather than having attended myself. My main complaint is that canine research is putting the cart before the horse, trying to divine what dogs are thinking (apparently Dr Monique Udell does not fall into that broad trend) when complex behavior and learning is being studied. Here’s the question I would ask were I in attendance and which I would think would represent the first order of business in canine research; How did the social signals that according to modern theory regulate access to resources, and from which a social hierarchy is said to emerge, evolve? What’s the step-by-step progression from the fundamental first elements of a social signal (including its pre-social precursor, if any) to its full bodied, finely nuanced manifestation as can be observed between dogs, for example, the play bow?

One of my aims with this website is to help owners see the inherent contradiction at the heart of the Neo-Darwinian logic which currently informs all of dogdom. And it should be easy for an expert to point out where I’m going wrong simply by answering the above and tracing the evolution of the social signals from its crude incipient kernel to its most complex expression. This is how modern biology countered Intelligent Designs’ assertion that the human eye was too complex to have evolved via natural selection. Biologists provided a step-by-step sequence of adaptations, each being functional at its particular magnitude of development until ultimately the complex eye emerged. That’s what I’m asking for here. Canine Cognition Labs are testing for cognitive development in the experiments they design, but what about the step-by-step progression? That should come before one would conclude that dogs are informed by an innate apprehension of fairness.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201306/do-dogs-feel-jealousy-and-envy

In my understanding of Neo-Darwinism, individuals are said to vary in their genetic makeup. Then selective pressures from the environment and other organisms with which they are in competition cull from this pool by favoring certain genes over others until the most adaptive combinations gradually accrue to dominate a species’ genome. So there is a random degree of variability in the genetic makeup of organisms, there are random events in the environment that put survival pressures on organisms, there is competition for limited resources from other organisms, and natural selection is the non-directed result as to which genes prevail and which ones fall by the wayside. Social systems and their internal methods of communication are said to have emerged from this evolutionary dynamic.

However since in my view the animal mind is an energy system, any theory of animal behavior such as Neo-Darwinian logic that is not predicated on principles of energy, will either end up contradicting itself (because it is a personality theory, as in one self-contained agency of intelligence relative to another self-contained agency of intelligence) or inadvertently and unknowingly end up marshaling some aspect of an energy theory in order to sustain itself. For example, Roger Abrantes argues that it is a more efficient use of energy for individuals to work out a dominance hierarchy so that they don’t have to expend a lot of energy in fighting over resources each time the possession of a resource is open to question. A dominance hierarchy is a more cost effective means of resolving issues over the long haul.

http://rogerabrantes.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/dominance-making-sense-of-the-nonsense/

RA: “If an animal resolves all inter-group conflicts with aggressive and fearful behavior, it will be exhausted when subsequently compelled to go and find food, a mating partner or a safe place to rest or take care of its progeny (all of which decrease the chances of its own survival and that of its genes). Thus, the alien and mate strategy originated and evolved. It is impossible to fight everybody all of the time, so a mate is confronted using energy-saving procedures.”

At this point if Mr. Abrantes were presenting at SPARCS I would raise my hand to ask if the alien and mate strategy evolved whole cloth from the social system? Below is what I presume he would answer based on his writings:

RA: “Initially, all behavior is probably just a reflex, a response following a particular anatomical or physiological reaction. Like all phenotypes, it happens by chance and evolves thereafter.”

That’s it. The entire edifice of thinking, as solid as the reasoning goes on to be, nevertheless is being hoisted upon extremely thin pins, ones which border on magical thinking. The necessary reflex just conjures up out of thin air without precedent. Just like that the needed reflex arrives and now the animal has a means of ritualistic displays that settle intramural disputes without violence and it is this way because it is more efficient. While energy is the ultimate standard of efficacy, yet there is no continuous series of steps running consistently from A to Z.

Bear in mind that Abrantes’ formulation would require that both sides of the communicative equation, two diametrically opposed randomly occurring reflexes, have to have emerged at exactly the same time so that the signal is received in a way that is coherent to the other party. Not only that, but it is a signal which is multi-tiered in its capacity to convey meaning at each step in a back and forth exchange; by which I mean that the signal the “submissive” emits in response to a “dominant’s” display of dominance must also in turn be recognizable by the dominant, and then the submissive has to be able to next recognize that its signal of submission has been heard loud and clear by the dominant so that it’s safe for it to remain submissive. Meanwhile, the dominant has to be assured that the submissive is acting genuinely and not as a ruse so that once its guard is down it won’t become vulnerable to being blind sided, especially given that two rivals willing to contest a resource are likely to be extremely closely matched (remember Neo-Darwinian logic depends on but the slightest degrees of variation).

In order for the evolution of social signals to occur, it’s immediately vital that on the very first instance a submissive does not get torn apart or unmercifully traumatized by a dominant that hasn’t yet evolved to recognize its signal of submission. Also, a dominant dealing with another potential dominant, one who in this case is not so inclined to submit, must be able to soft shoe its aggressive approach so as to not push a dominant wannabe over the edge by being too aggressive in its dominance. It has to assert itself, but not so much that it takes the submissive option off the table for the other contestant. Both the dominant and the submissive must be able to perceive and apprehend the finest detail in their rival so as to tailor their response to make the counterbalancing option possible in the mind of the other party. “I’ll show weakness, but not too much so you don’t finish me.”—relative to—–“I’ll show strength but not too much so that you’re not forced to defend yourself.” This highly complex system of an elaborating parlay must be fully developed on the very first encounter. There’s no half way measure, or even 99.99% correlation of transmission and reception between parties. There can’t be an incremental increase of submission and dominance that eventually evolves into the full throated ballet between interactants. On the very first instance it has to work for both parties 100% so that both signals could continue to evolve in tandem toward its highest expressions and thus come to occupy the majority of the genome and be exhibited in all members of a species. Additionally this so called reflex must work across the full spectra of contexts being plastic enough to be applicable from one scenario to another even though the tactical realities may be dramatically different.

This is where Neo-Darwinism must quickly resort to the Theory of Mind proposition because obviously the only way such a back and forth unfolding of constantly changing tactical and strategic realities can work, is to require both parties to have a highly developed cognitive wherewithal to recognize that an intended signal is being received in the spirit in which it is being broadcast, and that this level of comprehension must hold true at every step of its many levels of elaboration. Interactants must trust that the messaging system justifies forgoing an immediate advantage for a deferred benefit and I think this is a lot to ask of a randomly occurring pair of reflexes.

We additionally have to remind ourselves that a central tenet of Neo-Darwinian logic is that evolution requires a very long term gradual accrual of any given trait within a genome. However in this case, the reality is that the cold hard brutal logic of an immediate payoff has to be confronted on that miraculous day when two diametrically but complementary involuntary reflexes magically appeared in two contentious individuals headed for conflict. As I’ve intimated above, Neo-Darwinian logic would make a far stronger case as to why such signals could NOT have evolved. Once a submissive exposes a vulnerable body part, why wouldn’t a dominant take full advantage of an opening so that his rival is subdued resoundingly never to challenge him again? The individual who presses such an unexpected advantage (remember he is supposedly prepared to fight over a resource) would be more likely to propagate its genes than one who hesitated.

Perhaps Abrantes might counter that dominance and submissive displays are a constrained pantomime of an actual fight, like martial artists performing a Kata routine rather than actually sparring with a real opponent. This would represent an adaptive conservation of energy, rendering a bloodless verdict as opposed to physically re-litigating the same conflicts every time some new issue comes up and would presumably fall below the level of ToM. But where then do these fighting reflexes come from? Do these evolve whole cloth within the species and at random? And again does this address the central question as to how both sides of the “conversation” evolved step-by-step so that the original suite of reflexes that became “signals” would be recognized by both partners at every step of elaboration?

At its intellectual bedrock, Neo-Darwinism is almost veering into an energy theory when it appeals to a mathematical justification, specifically the benefits of reciprocity via game theory. Mathematically over the long term deferring from a short term gain works out for the individual. However this merely belays the cost/benefit analysis to the statistical weight of vast numbers of genes doing the number crunching and doesn’t speak to what is going on within the individual which is why Neo-Darwinism will always have to revert to a high cognitive ToM capacity in order to account for the plasticity of the social hierarchy. Here again we require a mind capable of a complex analysis, a mind that would be also capable of considering the cost of submission, the proverbial give them an inch and they’ll take a mile, not to mention the downside of losing face in front of other observers who an otherwise dominant individual is counting on to be submissive over other stuff in the future. And then all of this intellectual gymnastics has to fall under the heading of instinct. Somehow all this social calculus is embedded in the genome as the statistical aggregate of what gets passed on and what doesn’t, and somehow all this activity is going on within the brain but it cannot be, as Panksepp teaches, of a verbal nature and even Neo-Darwinists aren’t saying that deep in the brain is a math module running gaming algorithms.

If Loretta Graziano Bruening were at SPARCS, she might argue as she writes in “I, Mammal”—that this flexible dynamic of which I quest is the neurochemical dimension of the mind. Animals are always seeking to maximize the pleasurable neurochemical mix its mind is bathed in while avoiding the neurochemicals that make it feel bad. The resolution of this neurochemical fine tuning is a dominance hierarchy because being cast out of the group feels worse than having access to a particular resource denied by a rival. But again to make the neurochemical formula work we still require an individual to be capable of cognition in that it must be able to compare its status to another and in terms of its past experiences.

“A mammal draws on its past experience when it compares itself to others.”

Breuning, Loretta Graziano (2011-02-17). I, Mammal: Why Your Brain Links Status and Happiness (p. 37). System Integrity Press. Kindle Edition.

I agree with LGB that neurochemicals are vital, but in my view they are just an effecting agency, they are not the operative dynamic. Something deeper is going on and it is only after this dynamic shifts do the neurochemicals kick in to execute the urge into action.

Another big problem with seeing dominance and submissive displays as social signals that are conveying control over access to resources, a communicative system that supports a dominance hierarchy, is that if this were true, in other words if it evolved within that social system without a natural precedent, as Abrantes says a random reflex that then incidentally finds its way into a new kind of functional service, we would not therefore expect these signals to be recognized between species but only within a species. We would not expect to see wolves displaying “submission” as they approach a group of bison in a fenced compound at Wolf Park Indiana. Sharks and those who “play” with sharks should not be able to recognize what each are up to (See 60 minutes http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=8296628 ) as they cavort in bloody chummed up waters. And then we should also consider that this capacity to defer from serious aggression or predator prey-making isn’t likely to be the result of the social system, but rather it would far more likely be the basis upon which a social system becomes possible, which returns us to the question, where would a fully formed communicative system have evolved from?

We  always have to return to the notion of energy to make sense of why animals do what they do. I particularly like how Loretta Graziano Bruening formulates a hierarchy in terms of energy in “I, Mammal.”

“Animals can’t do much to improve their future survival prospects. They can’t eat more today to protect themselves from future food shortages because the excess weight would slow them down when running from predators. They can’t store extra food because it spoils or gets stolen (with rare exceptions). The main thing a mammal can do today to improve its security for tomorrow is to convert surplus food energy into social power. If food becomes scarce in the future, the mammal who has built up strength and dominance is likely to get more of it.”

Breuning, Loretta Graziano (2011-02-17). I, Mammal: Why Your Brain Links Status and Happiness (p. 102). System Integrity Press. Kindle Edition.

Social status is an energy battery. Well said. But we need to add that every rung on the ladder is likewise an energy battery. Being connected to the group at any “rank” saves energy both in dealing with predators and securing food. This is why it’s vital for an individual to remain connected at all costs because as LGB notes working together confers a degree of protection or commands a resource not otherwise available through singular action.

However just because a trait confers an advantage doesn’t address the question as to how it evolved, just as it doesn’t specify the dynamic. How does an animal recognize that a potential dividend can be realized not only by holding back, but by holding back a powerful reflex that normally demands immediate action? Is it cognition, or is there a precedent, a natural context wherein both sides of the dialogue could have naturally evolved without relying on any party in the interaction evolving a cognitive Theory of Mind so as to compare its status to others? (Which as I noted above is unlikely precisely because of Neo-Darwinian logic) The dynamic must not be of a verbal, narrative nature, must be energy efficient and must manifest signals recognizable by all species of animals since we see that this kind of communication transpires across species lines.

As I mentioned earlier, dominance and submission look like constrained fighting behaviors; so where do the reflexes that animals use to fight their conspecifics, which would also be linked to courting displays which is where most inter-species conflict arises, come from? In other words, if energy efficiency is the gold standard for the evolution of adaptive traits as we all agree it should be, we might ask how do animals acquire energy, and in counterbalance, how do they avoid becoming another animals’ source of energy? I propose this is where we should turn to understand the side-by-side evolution of communicative signals.

One of the hallmarks of evolution is the conservation of information. If the fighting reflexes in ritualized form are precursors to social signals of “dominance” and “submission,” it makes sense that these these didn’t evolve whole cloth out of a smattering of random reflexes but rather arose from a coherent system of inter-species dealings—-specifically, from how an animal would attack its prey, and how an animal would defend itself from a predator. Since solitary animals evolved before social animals, with every nuance of the prey/predator interaction sculpted by the sharp-edge scythe of energy efficiency, the prey-making and predator-shaking strategies would become the basis of social systems as the most likely evolutionary route as opposed to communicative systems having suddenly and spontaneously emerged on their own after social systems evolved into being.

The mechanics of making a living (and in counterbalance the capacity to avoid or survive predation) is predicated on manifesting physical leverage over one’s center mass vis a vis the target’s capacity to resist and remain upright. One half of the energetic equation is the projection and leveraging of force, the other half is the absorption and resistance of force. So if social signals evolved from constrained fighting reflexes, then the precursors to social systems have to do with making prey and avoiding being made into prey, which itself boils down to the projection and absorption of force, all of which revolves around configuring the body around its center-of-gravity.

Not only is the prey/predator relationship far deeper than social, but it’s also not at all by random because leveraging one individual’s center-of-gravity to degrade the integrity of another’s equilibrium is the basis of all such interactions, and therefore relative positions of physical center masses would prove to be the basis of social signals.

So far so good but the essence of a social signal is a capacity to control an impulse, to hold back a normally overpowering compulsion in order to defer an immediate gratification for a future potential benefit. And as mentioned earlier, to date this capacity has been attributed to higher cognitive faculties. We should therefore ask what primordial physiological/neurological systems require impulse control, and are linked autonomically to the same impulse to go forward so that they can evolve side-by-side and be conserved, as a pair, in the genetic makeup of all mammals as its means of grasping that there is a potential benefit inherent in deferring from an immediate gratification? Since bringing down another being, or keeping oneself from being brought down, revolves around the issue of preserving or degrading the integrity of the body’s physical center-of-gravity, we can see that these two balance conditions are the perfect counterbalance to each other and have evolved for millions of years to complement each other in inter-species interactions. Both sides of the transmission/reception equation would have co-evolved into a highly refined state of synchronicity, perfectly matched because all organisms are highly attuned not only to their own physical integrity, but also to their physical integrity relative to the leveraging capacity of others to degrade their physical equilibrium.

A predator sees a prey and lays down before it can be spotted. Settling back onto its hindquarters, it gathers its force for a  strike. Not only is it holding back, it is concentrating force in an opposite direction equal to the amount of acceleration it will experience when it springs forward. Two diametrically opposed impulses are yet their equal. Holding back is inextricably affiliated with getting to an object of attraction. We can next imagine how the entire stalk sequence evolved from this holding back impulse, a paralytic style of running while in a crouched position. Holding back in the short term gains more energy over the long term because to rush forward impulsively causes the prey to take flight prematurely. Is this a cognitive Theory of Mind construct in the predator’s mind about what’s going on in the prey’s mind, or can this lead us even deeper to the core auto-tuning/feedback dynamic that’s running both their minds?

Meanwhile a prey would evolve the equal/opposite behavior of getting low to the ground to avoid detection; my father once reported seeing a buck crawling through a gully to avoid detection by hunters who were positioned in the field above. He so admired its strategy he couldn’t bring himself to shoot. So this is another example of holding back to increase energy; in this case holding back the urge to bolt from abject fright, self-constraint that increases the buck’s safety. And this too has to do with an animal positioning its center-of-gravity relative to an external object in its perceptual field. Furthermore this primordial system can morph from context to context in order to deal with all manner of terrain, buffeting forces and interactions with other individuals operating from their own balance agendas, a behavioral malleability operating far below the level of social discourse and not requiring a Theory of Mind.

With this natural precedent of the balance agenda and relative positioning of respective centers of gravity, we can help Abrantes move his language from “probably JUST a reflex” to a much more precise logical framework wherein a natural capacity to hold oneself back in the interest of a deferred benefit can serve as the substrate for a complex social signaling network, and it would have evolved from the locomotive impulse which itself is comprised of complementary mechanics, holding back to increase a potential energy yield, holding back to increase safety.

What this means is that the locomotive rhythm, the physical mechanics that moves the body as fast and as efficiently as possible from point A to point B, toward that which the animal desires, or away from that the animal fears, is the basis of our A-to-Z evolutionary progression. The emotional capacity to map the locomotive rhythm onto complex objects-of-attraction (objects-of-resistance) is at the heart of the social signal systems. It is non-verbal, trans-species, energy efficient, energy efficacious, and most importantly, it has nothing to do with a cognitive entertainment of a Theory of Mind. In other words, the animal mind processes emotion

                      —–> (+)    (-) —–>

feeling a pull toward that which is attractive and feeling a push away from that which is repulsive,  the same way the body processes motion.

The only dynamic, pre-existing in all animals eons before there were social groups, that is preverbal and confers an awareness of efficacy and efficiency running consistently from the short term through the long term, that enhances safety and increases the rate of reward through the holding back of raw primordial impulses, and has in its operational module the holding-back-impulse in equal counteracting measure to the going-forward-impulse, and which is dynamically attuned to context, is to be found in the physical mechanics of motion, the maintaining of equilibrium and the directing, and the exerting and leveraging of force relative to objects of resistance. This is the simple, primordial mechanics, universal across the animal kingdom and by which all animals maintain their safety and also how they make their living effectively and efficiently. I’m arguing that the absolute rock bottom of deferred gratification, the core to any system of social signaling is to be found in the physical mechanics of the body perched and teetering on the cusp of a precipice; a locomotive dynamic that is then mapped onto any state of perception. A state of perception is governed by a primal auto-tuning/feedback dynamic, not a Theory of Mind or other higher cognitive framework.

The mistake, in my view, that thinkers on the animal mind are making, is that they assume that social signals involve the communication of intention. They are not. Rather, signals are a communication of capacity: the capacity to project force, the capacity to absorb force. This internal locomotive rhythm is an internal metric of success and well-being and would be mapped onto an external construct of reality if in an animal’s mind physical and emotional equilibrium were synonymous. This is what my reading of canine behavior has demonstrated to me.

If cognition is the basis of social signaling, and given that sociability is the capacity to control the most violent impulses, then dogs would be the least likely candidate for being so adaptable to human society given that our primate first cousins are mentally far more evolved. But what makes dogs so adaptable is a high emotional capacity, the capacity to map the locomotive rhythm, in other words the fine line between the omnipresent urge to move smoothly—relative to the ever present fear of falling—-onto a state of perception. In the animal mind, objects of emotional relevance (and these are the only ones which are present in an animal’s mind) either absorb and conduct the individual’s emotional momentum, or they do not. The dog’s capacity to deconstruct complex stimuli to their prime elements (+) (-) allows the dog to thereby integrate its sense of self via a projection of its physical center of gravity, into its perception of this external being and perceive it as an extension of its “self.” This is why dogs are so social.

Published June 19, 2014 by Kevin Behan
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20 responses to “SPARCS Conference and Social Signals”

  1. Rip says:

    I really appreciate and enjoy your work. This seems to me like canine semiotics, and as I read it I am reminded a little of the semiotic work of Walker Percy, who also challenged the prevailing scientific theories.

  2. Kevin Behan says:

    Much appreciated, many thanks.

  3. Ben says:

    Going to play devil’s advocate here because I’m hoping it will help focus the argument down and provide some challenge. I agree with your ultimate premise but wanted to point out some things I noted. I’ve started to believe it’s important to be relentlessly self-critical when it comes to ideas and theories so I wanted to apply that in this arena as well. Some of my quoting may be disjointed and I may have misunderstood some points, apologies:

    “Bear in mind that Abrantes’ formulation would require that both sides of the communicative equation, two diametrically opposed randomly occurring reflexes, have to have emerged at exactly the same time so that the signal is received in a way that is coherent to the other party.

    In order for the evolution of social signals to occur, it’s immediately vital that on the very first instance a submissive does not get torn apart or unmercifully traumatized by a dominant that hasn’t yet evolved to recognize its signal of submission.

    There can’t be an incremental increase of submission and dominance that eventually evolves into the full throated ballet between interactants. On the very first instance it has to work for both parties 100% so that both signals could continue to evolve in tandem toward its highest expressions and thus come to occupy the majority of the genome and be exhibited in all members of a species.”

    So part of your argument here is that a “dominant” or “submissive” behavior must have emerged randomly and simultaneously and also the ability to interpret the opposite signal in order for the evolution of these signals to occur. But is this really the case? All behavior is built upon millions of years of evolved responses starting from the very first life. In other words, for “dominant” behavior to have evolved, it had to evolve from other behavior, and in conjunction with, and not necessarily be something entirely, completely new. This is akin to saying an eye just “appeared” in a species one day which is a common misunderstanding about evolution. I don’t know enough about social evolution to say much, but logically it seems like “dominant” or “submissive” behaviors could have had their start in kin selection and then into more complex group selection. I don’t think it is a strong argument to say there’s “no way” for an incremental increase in these behaviors. It’s not a perfect process.. sometimes you may have mutations that increase dominant behavior to the point that it is detrimental, and therefore it does not persist. That doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road for dominant behavior writ large– maybe just that specific expression or intensity.

    “Once a submissive exposes a vulnerable body part, why wouldn’t a dominant take full advantage of an opening so that his rival is subdued resoundingly never to challenge him again? The individual who presses such an unexpected advantage (remember he is supposedly prepared to fight over a resource) would be more likely to propagate its genes than one who hesitated.”

    Again, these are going to be predicated on earlier behavioral responses all intertwined together. Perhaps there is dominant behavior, but it is mediated by kin recognition (assuming these are wolves for example from the same pack). In other words, there is a rich, complex interaction of behavior going on and “dominant” behavior is not going to be something completely separate and shielded from other behavioral influences and inclinations.

    “Here again we require a mind capable of a complex analysis, a mind that would be also capable of considering the cost of submission, the proverbial give them an inch and they’ll take a mile, not to mention the downside of losing face in front of other observers who an otherwise dominant individual is counting on to be submissive over other stuff in the future.

    But again to make the neurochemical formula work we still require an individual to be capable of cognition in that it must be able to compare its status to another and in terms of its past experiences.”

    I see the point you’re making– but there is an assumption that it requires a conscious, directed process. Interpreting wavelengths of light seems complex to me, and I have no idea consciously how “I” do it. My brain does it. I have no idea that light is entering into my eye and being projected into my retina upside down and then being flipped by my visual cortex– I understand that it does, but have no awareness of the process. Awareness can be hijacked by stroke or trauma so that a person’s brain will be interpreting objects shown to them but they have no actual awareness of the objects. They may say the correct name of the object, but are completely unaware they are seeing anything. My point in these examples is that it does NOT take a mind– it takes a brain.

    Koch coined the term “zombie processes” to illustrate that much of our behavior is completely automatic, outside of our conscious perception, intention, and awareness (what we would think of as “thought”). This can be accomplished because our senses construct reality through an electrical and neurochemical representation. There are a myriad of different thresholds for actions, which when triggered, are inhibited or amplified which will then trigger other thresholds, etc. None of which, theoretically, require a mind (haven’t come across a true zombie, yet though).

    Why can’t that also be taking place in animals?

    “Something deeper is going on and it is only after this dynamic shifts do the neurochemicals kick in to execute the urge into action.”

    Where and what is the “urge”? If the urge is not neurochemical and/or electrical, what is it? It either has to be something non-physical, or you’re proposing a fundamental part of reality that has not been measured. If we say it is energy, isn’t that what neurochemical and electrical interactions are?

    Thanks for the wonderful, thought-provoking article!!

  4. Very well-thought out, well written.

    I’ll be interested to see if there’s any reaction from LGB, Abrantes, Bekoff or Coren. I know that for the three men, they’re all firm believers in the “consciousness as a difference of degree, not kind” fallacy, so I don’t think it matters to them that you’ve distilled the cognitive processes necessary for social signals down to their barest elements. Why bother? As far as they’re concerned, anthropomorphism is a totally appropriate form of explaining animal behavior, just ask Darwin!

    Of course the problem is that they’re basing their entire world view on the first half of what Darwin said, while totally ignoring the second half.

  5. Kirsten says:

    So maybe we have always been here? And if so…maybe we have always had dogs.

    I don’t know how much of this stuff is true, but it’s worth noting the possibilities.

    (The link was easier to post than quote many portions of the article. That way you can decide for yourself.)

    http://www.maltanow.com.mt/?p=2927

  6. Kevin Behan says:

    Thanks Ben, appreciate the challenge and indeed, there’s a lot of bobs and weaves in my argument so some clarification is in order. I’m playing devil advocate to Abrantes’ argument by saying it would be impossible for dominance and submission to have randomly emerged because it would have had to happen simultaneously, and because it would have also required them to be fully elaborated on many levels of meaning because there has to be a back and forth exchange with each stage fraught with its own precarious tactical realities for both interactants. Furthermore, there’s a quality of abracadabra in Neo-Darwinian logic as a behavior is theorized to have evolved because it confers an advantage when logically Neo-Darwinism makes a better case why dominance/submissiveness could not have evolved, rather than as a justification for why it did evolve. So that brings me to my challenge to Neo-Darwinists; Where is the step-by-step evolution of these signals, just as it can be found in the autonomic processing of light by the eye? Behaviorism chides me by saying “just hold on, this is science, we’re getting there.” But they’ve already arrived at a conclusion with the ToM formulations and the current definition of dominance as a hierarchy around access-to-resources. They interpret the experiments through a foregone conclusion and this then produces nothing but an oxymoron; on the one hand it an instinct, and then on the other hand it requires all this mental gymnastics in the minds of the interactants. Abrantes begins with a random reflex, but then we suddenly end up with one individual comparing its status to another. Where are the missing steps? Behaviorism isn’t arguing that it’s like the processing of light (that would open the door to a deeper examination but strangely that isn’t being pursued), rather, it’s the comparing of relative status between individuals.
    The deeper dynamic to which I allude (and which crystalizes around an immaterial “essence”—the individual’s physical center-of-gravity–and is then to be associated with a material object-of-attraction–in other words the immaterial and the material become fused in the mind by the phenomenon of emotion) is simply an organisms’ inherent compulsion to move. This compulsion invokes all the laws of nature into the interactions between the organism and its world. This is why the evolution of a centralized nervous system, and bilateral symmetry of anatomy, happened at the same time. The neurochemical and all physiological processes are subordinate to this compulsion and evolved to effect it. (Of special note here is the Constructal Law and the Locomotive Rhythm, p. 86 “Design In Nature”) Thus the mind makes sense of the world in terms of motion. Objects become relevant to the mind due to their resistance value to emotion, and in this way, the principle of emotional conductivity compels organisms to act on their environment in order to improve the flow not only for them, but because all organisms are invested with the same compulsion, this factors out to an improvement of all flows, inanimate ones as well as animate ones. Once an object becomes emotionally relevant, the compulsion becomes to accelerate it, or, to align and synchronize with its movement if it can’t be accelerated. (There is a discrete and observable mechanics to this subconscious process that becomes available once one learns to not project human thoughts into the animal mind. But alas this “personification process” is just as autonomic as the eye’s capacity to process light.) The improvement of flow is evolution, and evolution is learning, they’re not separate phenomena, they are the same one simply playing out at different time scales. My argument is that these principles of physics should be exhausted in our interpretation of behavior and learning before we leap to high cognition, such as comparing one point-of-view, or one moment in time, to another point-of-view or moment in time. But I predict the SPARCS conference which is assembling to probe the mind of the domesticated dog, the animal that is most demonstrable of these principles of nature that compose the phenomenon of sociability, are going to be talking in effect that dogs are people too. This is inside out. We should be talking about the animal mind, the human animal included.
    < >

  7. Kevin Behan says:

    Please elaborate on Darwin’s “second half.” Because I’m pointing out that the emperor has no clothes, I’m not expecting any reaction. But I do expect that a young student somewhere will notice the matrix of inconsistencies.

  8. Kevin Behan says:

    There are two reasons I talk about evolution, neither of which has to do with how did life begin, a WHY question. First of all, modern behaviorism is always invoking random variability, random environmental selective pressures, as the Why of a dog’s behavior. My interpretation of a dog’s behavior on the other hand is an energy theory, a How-does-behavior-work question. Therefore it doesn’t matter to me Why, just How, but nevertheless by definition I have to counter the Random Why argument since it’s always in play in our current discussion of behavior. The second reason I talk about evolution is that it is ongoing in the moment, it’s still happening and it’s my belief that evolution is an immediate-moment phenomenon with nature adjusting as a whole, genes then shifting to accommodate the increase of complexity, and we can observe increase of complexity in the phenomenon of how behavior changes over time. At any rate, there is no conservative or sane answer to the Why question. No matter which theory is true, Neo-Darwinism, Intelligent Design, Creationism, Symbiogenesis, Alien Insemination, et. al, they are all fantastically absurd propositions from our sequestered point of view. We are hardly in a position to judge as to which notion is more conservative than another.

  9. Ben says:

    I still don’t understand the argument of how they would have HAD to emerge simultaneously. It’s not hard for me to imagine that behavior some would consider dominant or submissive could have arisen from a random mutation and naturally selected for. Again, it’s not a perfect or aligned process. These are things that started out in very simple terms with very simple species and took billions of years to evolve and refine into the species and behavior we see today. On a timescale such as that, I would argue it becomes more and more likely.

    As for a step-by-step process, clearly that’s a bit more difficult to do objectively because behavior can only be indirectly surmised through fossil and genetic records. I’d be curious to see what approaches evolutionary ethologists are taking to model these problems.

    My views have evolved (pardon the pun) on this in that I accept that dominance and submission are nothing but labels and human concepts– injecting those into the mind of a dog for example seems incredibly far-fetched. However, what we CALL “status” can indeed be represented in the brain, even that of a canine. In other words, there is no mental, verbal construct of “status” in a dog’s mind that it is aware of, but the representation of a specific individual constructed through the immediate moment (sensory) and past experience (memory) can set off and trigger specific behavioral responses. The combination of visual, olfactory, etc stimuli reach a threshold and trigger a memory store which when combined together activate certain brain regions and not others. Let’s say a “dominant” male approaches a submissive– the visual and olfactory stimulation activates memory-based pathways which are combined (perhaps through synchronization of activity in the cortex) which follow strengthened pathways (from past encounters) to activate emotional based regions like the amygdala. This then produces neurochemicals which stimulate other brain regions to activate certain behavior patterns.

    You could label the above process. Behaviorists and others make the mistake of injecting this process as an actual thought into the mind. Are terms like dominance, submission, and hierarchy accurate labels in the sense of how they describe the interactions over time? I don’t think so, but my point in the above exercise is that complex calculations can indeed occur without any ToM because of “behind-the-scenes” binding in the neurological circuitry. There need not be any “mental stage” in this case.

    So the essence you’re speaking of is the visceral sensation of the physical CoG? Why is this necessarily immaterial? If it is visceral, a sensation, then surely it is represented neurally? The one problem I can see here is that if you’re speaking of something immaterial there has to be a process for this immaterial thing to affect the material. How is that leap being made? And how is this different than the leap of “faith” in something being random? We know the physical CoG is a real thing, and we know the brain can produce a representation that we call “balance”, so where does the immaterial “thing” come into play?

    Can you quantify what a resistance to emotion means in nuts-and-bolts terms? In other words, if an object is represented in the brain (which to be perceived it has to be)– what is different about that representation that differs it from others to make it resistant to emotion?

    As for addressing how life began– I would argue that, like anything else in the universe, life began based on the physical laws of the universe. Theories based on this premise are, to me, much more likely since historically that has always been the case. Theories like ID, Creationism, and the like are based on an influence operating outside of the known laws. This doesn’t make them impossible, but I would say much less likely.

  10. Julie Forlizzo says:

    I am simple minded and not highly intellectual, so these blog posts confuse me. But I have to say this: It’s beginning to sound like the old skit “Who’s on first.” Or each one trying to outsmart the other. What I do know is that when I look into my dog’s eyes, I don’t want to imagine him as a science project, his head in an MRI contraption or his body on a cold metal laboratory table. I appreciate that there are people that are interested enough to see the world through the dogs’ eyes, but not at the expense of his heart. When I am with my dog, he nor I care about what may or may not have happened thousands of years ago. Kevin, at the Orlando seminar you asked us the question, “If your dog could ask you what you want, what would you say?” I remember telling you that I just want to know his heart. I believe behaviorists can challenge each other all day long and never quite hit the mark, but our dogs know the answer. Back and forth challenges are good and healthy, but please don’t take the “Heart” out of our dogs.

  11. Hey, Kevin,

    Here’s a preview of something I’ve been working on, re the dominance meme.

    Many scientists, especially those who study animal behavior and comparative cognition, engage in a selective reading of Darwin’s ideas on consciousness in animals, isolating Darwin’s thoughts from their true context. Thus you often hear scientists referring to the differences in consciousness between humans and animals as “one of degree, not of kind,” as if this idea were the very foundation of animal science, written in stone.

    Here’s Darwin’s actual statement: “Nevertheless, the difference in mind between man and the HIGHER animals, GREAT AS IT IS, is certainly one of degree and not of kind.” [emphasis mine]

    That’s a strong statement. Yet most scientists who “quote” Darwin on this ignore the fact that in the previous paragraph he was discussing how apes are similar to human beings in their ability to form emotional bonds and familial attachments. So Darwin’s comment wasn’t about the differences between humans and dogs or wolves or other animals, it was specifically about the differences between humans and apes. What’s also being left out, is that Darwin said that there was a HUGE difference – “GREAT AS IT IS” – between these species.

    The second problem is that a few sentences later, Darwin says, “If it be maintained that certain powers such as self-consciousness, abstraction, etc., are peculiar to man, it may well be that these are the incidental results of other highly-advanced faculties; and these again are MAINLY THE RESULT OF THE CONTINUED USE OF A HIGHLY-DEVELOPED LANGUAGE.” [emphasis mine]

    So the idea that the difference in mind between man and the higher animals is one of degree and not of kind, is not set in stone, and may be, as Darwin himself admitted, invalid. And modern research on the nature of human language has validated Darwin’s second statement, rendering the first invalid just as Darwin said it might.

    Also, I re-read what you’ve written and I think your ideas make absolute and complete sense when applied to mammalian predators, but less so when applied to prey animals, social insects, schools of fish, birds of prey, etc.

    Just something you might need to add to the mix…

    And again, anyone who’s misquoting Darwin on consciousness is going to be less open to listening to these ideas because it’s already stuck in their minds that consciousness is a gradual continuum. So “why bother with all these unnecessary parsimonious acrobatics?”

    Anyway, that’s how I see it.

  12. I just want to add that I think you’ve taken this to a remarkable new level. It feels like a sudden influx of fresh air has suddenly been injected into a musty, stuffy old room.

  13. Kevin Behan says:

    Ben Point 1: I still don’t understand the argument of how they would have HAD to emerge simultaneously. It’s not hard for me to imagine that behavior some would consider dominant or submissive could have arisen from a random mutation and naturally selected for. Again, it’s not a perfect or aligned process. These are things that started out in very simple terms with very simple species and took billions of years to evolve and refine into the species and behavior we see today. On a timescale such as that, I would argue it becomes more and more likely.

    KB: If a simple organism shows some degree of vulnerability to another simple organism, then Neo-Darwinian logic would compel the advantaged one to exploit its advantage to its maximum, otherwise another organism that would exploit to the maximum would eventually if not immediately displace it in the genome. There’s no advantage in not quite finishing-off a prey animal, or not quite digesting a meal, but now in this case Neo-Darwinian logic twists itself into a pretzel in trying to explain the advantage to holding back a primal reflex. So if there’s going to be a holding back of a primal reflex in favor of a deferred benefit, something has to be happening simultaneously in the subject to complement what’s happening within the object in order to forestall the Neo-Darwinian logic that supposedly is informing its genes.

    Ben/2: As for a step-by-step process, clearly that’s a bit more difficult to do objectively because behavior can only be indirectly surmised through fossil and genetic records. I’d be curious to see what approaches evolutionary ethologists are taking to model these problems.
    KB: From my point of view I don’t think it is particularly difficult because we have in fact the benefit of what’s going on in the back and forth between dogs right before us. We could for example study behavior as a function of attraction rather than intention. We could begin with a different assumption and see where that leads. And while some may disagree that it’s not difficult, that doesn’t mean they can therefore leap to a high level psychology such as dominance and submission and purport that they’ve explained something.
    Ben/3: So the essence you’re speaking of is the visceral sensation of the physical CoG? Why is this necessarily immaterial?

    KB: The P-Cog itself is immaterial. It can move anywhere within the body, and even extend beyond the body and become entrained with another object with whom the subject is emotionally entrained. It’s not constrained by hardware. It’s also infinite, if we lose it in one moment, or project it outside our body due to how our body is configured, we can immediately acquire a new one. It’s also the one thing all organisms have in common no matter how different their physiology, anatomy or neurology may be.

    Ben/4: If it is visceral, a sensation, then surely it is represented neurally? The one problem I can see here is that if you’re speaking of something immaterial there has to be a process for this immaterial thing to affect the material. How is that leap being made? And how is this different than the leap of “faith” in something being random? We know the physical CoG is a real thing, and we know the brain can produce a representation that we call “balance”, so where does the immaterial “thing” come into play?

    KB: The immaterial p-cog becomes associated in the mind with the material object given the way the animal mind works. This is the key understanding. The animal understands external objects in terms of how they affect how its internal p-cog makes it feel once they are affiliated. In other words, there isn’t an internal mental representation of the object, rather, the animal feels as if an external object exerts a force that is displacing it from its point of equilibrium, and it then dissipates this force through some manner of alignment or synchronization in regards to that object. The animal’s physical actions reflect how that object is being internalized in its mind, as a pattern of whatever degree of alignment and synchronization that it has attained. The animal perceives the object as an extension of its “self,” and this is the complete opposite of a mental representation as in an external object that exists in its own time and space relative to an internal mental self that exists in a separate time and space.

    Ben/4: Can you quantify what a resistance to emotion means in nuts-and-bolts terms? In other words, if an object is represented in the brain (which to be perceived it has to be)– what is different about that representation that differs it from others to make it resistant to emotion?

    KB: An animal perceives an object as a force acting on it (by way of displacing its sense of its p-cog) which is why they are called stimulus, i.e. the animal has been stimulated, i.e. the animal must therefore move. In my terms it has been accelerated from a state of equilibrium and must therefore express a counteracting force in order to return to neutral. The gap to be closed between subject and object is a form of resistance, as well as whether or not the object can absorb the degree of force that the subject is now invested with. This all brings up a principle of conductivity and there is a discrete and easily observable physical mechanics to this. The question becomes, can the animal move efficiently and effectively when in affiliation with said object. This is the basis of an emotional entrainment. And if the back and forth can elaborate to the most intense expressions of movement, then an emotional bond is formed and the two separate minds, become one emotional electromagnetic-like dynamo. Two magnets merge into one.

    Ben/5: As for addressing how life began– I would argue that, like anything else in the universe, life began based on the physical laws of the universe. Theories based on this premise are, to me, much more likely since historically that has always been the case. Theories like ID, Creationism, and the like are based on an influence operating outside of the known laws. This doesn’t make them impossible, but I would say much less likely.

    KB: I couldn’t agree more, this is why I argue that physical laws of the universe are the basis for how the animal mind works as well. All biologists/behaviorists/ethologists use energy efficiency as the ultimate standard for any given behaviors’ efficacy and capacity to endure genetically, but then they throw it all out when plumbing the animal mind. But there’s only one question that matters, how does an animal itself know if what it’s doing is efficient or not, what is its internal metric? Its inborn locomotive rhythm. The locomotive rhythm has two discrete phases, projection of the p-cog forward, collection over the newly projected p-cog in the subsequent stride. The principle of emotional conductivity means bringing these two phases into equal manifestation, otherwise the animal falls flat on its face, it perceives that it is about to crash when it looks at an object-of-resistance that will not absorb its projection of momentum. So therefore when is it efficacious to hold back? When it allows one to gather for an intense release and the object of resistance can be converted perceptually to an object-of-attraction (via perception of a preyful aspect). In other words, the subject feels emotionally “grounded” in the object.

  14. Kevin Behan says:

    I hope I don’t bore you to becoming ungrounded in NDT, but trust me this is not an esoteric discussion. This is the only way I know to show that Heart is the main player in the behavior of animals. Otherwise, the field of discussion will be abandoned to the material reductionists. For example, the SPARCS gathering dedicated to understanding the mind of the most social, devoted and unconditionally loving animal on earth, there will be absolutely NO mention of heart. Plenty of psychology, neurochemistry, hormones and nuts and bolts, but no Heart.

  15. Kevin Behan says:

    From The Unknown Scientist

    “Maybe you should have spent that time looking up evolution of signalling. Solid models indicate they can arise from random signals and evolve from simmple signals. The research is only more 1/4 century old.”

    —- This is the only part of the comment that is germane to the question as to what are the first instances of dominance and submissive impulses. To the best of my knowledge, the theory of signal evolution does not offer the progression of a basic reflex evolving into a more complex system. Therefore if signaling theory is where I should turn, an expert should be able to turn to that particular resolution of the question and that would be that.

  16. Kevin Behan says:

    Thanks for the excellent review of Darwin.

    LCK: “Also, I re-read what you’ve written and I think your ideas make absolute and complete sense when applied to mammalian predators, but less so when applied to prey animals, social insects, schools of fish, birds of prey, etc.”

    I would say that the Locomotive Rhythm is the internal metric for all animals as to emotional well-being, and that the schooling impulse is the group resolution of the “friction” inherent when large numbers come together out of the universal impulse of attraction. They are attracted to each other, but blocked given the prey species don’t have the high emotional capacity of social predators to play rough (which in and of itself is merely preliminary to achieving group cohesion and a collectivized style of coordinated movement) and so by moving in sync and in alignment they create a special draft that makes the experience emotionally exhilarating. Trust this clarifies.

  17. I should backtrack a little. I’m not sure if social signals exist in schools of fish, for example, but the science says that dominance behavior does.

    “This study explored if boldness could be used to predict social status. First, boldness was assessed by monitoring individual zebrafish behaviour in (1) an unfamiliar barren environment with no shelter (open field), (2) the same environment when a roof was introduced as a shelter, and (3) when the roof was removed and an unfamiliar object (Lego® brick) was introduced. Next, after a resting period of minimum one week, social status of the fish was determined in a dyadic contest and dominant/subordinate individuals were determined as the winner/loser of two consecutive contests. Multivariate data analyses showed that males were bolder than females and that the behaviours expressed by the fish during the boldness tests could be used to predict which fish would later become dominant and subordinate in the ensuing dyadic contest. We conclude that bold behaviour is positively correlated to dominance in zebrafish and that boldness is not solely a consequence of social dominance.”

    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0023565

    “The use of colour displays to indicate a generally aggressive state has been noted in several species of fish (Barlow 1963; De Boer 1980; Muske & Fernald 1987; Dawkins & Guilford 1993; Beeching 1995). Vertical Bars are associated with aggressive behaviour in several species of cichlid (Baerends & Baerends-van Roon 1950; Hulscher-Emeis 1991, 1992; Nelissen 1991), and swordtails (Zimmerer & Kallman 1988; Morris et al. 1995), but is apparently a SUBMISSIVE SIGNAL in at least one species of cichlid.” [emphasis mine]

    http://www.psych.ualberta.ca/~phurd/papers/ar970531.pdf

    Birds ARE said to exhibit dominant and submissive signals. A bird who puffs up and “makes himself appear larger” is said to be engaging in social signaling. Some scientists have interpreted alarm signals in chickens as being possible submissive signals instead. “From observations of the eastern swamphen (porphyrio porphyrio) [by Woodland et al, they] argue that flicking of the white undertail coverts is a signal intended for predators and not for conspecifics. However, more detailed studies of the same species (Craig, 1977, 1979) allow for another interpretation, namely the signaling of submission. The additional action of warning conspecifics cannot be eliminated.” (Craig The American Naturalist, 1982.)

    Lizards are also said to exhibit social signals based on their relative positions of dominance or submissiveness within a group. “During conflict, males often assess their opponent’s fighting ability and motivation via dynamic signals. We conducted an interactive video playback study using male Jacky dragons, Amphibolurus muricatus, to determine which signalling strategy was the most effective at deterring aggression and eliciting submission. A 3D computer-animated lizard was used to present aggressive signals (push-up displays) and submissive ones (slow arm-waves).” (Van Dyke and Evans, 2008)

    http://beheco.oxfordjournals.org/content/19/4/895.full.pdf+html

    Crayfish also (supposedly) engage in dominant and submissive behaviors. http://czaw.org/agonistic-behavior-freshwater-crayfish-influence-intrinsic-and-extrinsic-factors-aggressive-encounte

    “Agonistic Behavior in Freshwater Crayfish: The Influence of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Factors on Aggressive Encounters and Dominance.” Paul A. Moore.

    Tailflip away from opponent or fast retreat.

    Retreat by slowly backing away from opponent.

    Visually ignore opponent with no response or threat display.

    Approach without a threat display, walking slowly toward the opponent.

    Approach with meral spread threat display with the major chelae; antennal (2nd antennae) whips are present, often with maxillipeds creating currents.

    Antennules (1st antennae) often are seen flicking.

    Initial major chela use by boxing, pushing, and/or touching with closed chelae. Chelae are not used to grasp but can be opened and pushed. Antennal whips are more vigorous. Antennule (1st antennae) flicking is not seen.

    Active major chela use by grabbing and/or holding opponent. Crayfish will try to turn opponents over or physically manipulate them, generating force through active major chela use.

    Unrestrained fighting by pulling at opponent’s claws or body parts. Opponents try to pull or tear legs, antennae, or major chelae off of individuals.

    And:

    “Submissive acts were scored as ‘retreat’ (walking away from an approaching or attacking opponent) and ‘escape’ (using rapid tail-flips to move away from an approaching or attacking opponent). Behaviors displayed during the second phase of the experiment (with the food present) were always analyzed first so that the social rank of the animals was unknown at the time of analysis.” (“Direct Benefits of Social Dominance in Juvenile Crayfish,” Herberholz et al, August, 2007) http://www.biolbull.org/content/213/1/21.full

  18. I thought your explanation of the “alarm” behavior in chickens (from a few weeks back) was spot on.

    I’m assuming that some of the above ^ may be helpful in painting a fuller picture of how these supposed displays of dominance and submission can be traced back to locomotion, etc., rather than differences in rank and status.

    Of course, as the make-believe scientist has pointed out, scientists don’t necessarily believe that an organism’s RHP suggests a theory of mind, or intent, etc. But that’s one of the problems of applying game theory to animal behavior. It goes back to another misinterpretation of Darwin, based on his idea that some species are in competition with one another.

    Another preview of something I’m working on:

    Darwin specifically used the term “dominate” to illustrate how one species may thrive better in a specific environment than its competitors. The word “dominance” never appears in any of his works, and actually runs counter to his thoughts on the nature of social animals. “Social animals,” he wrote in The Descent of Man, “perform many little services for each other: horses nibble, and cows lick each other, on any spot which itches: monkeys search each other for external parasites. … Animals also render more important services … thus wolves … hunt in packs, and aid each other in attacking their victims.”

    In his book Cooperation Among Mammals (1997), biologist Lee Alan Dugatkin details the conflict that arose between early Darwinists Thomas Huxley (a hard-liner when it came to the idea of competition), and Henry Wallace (who co-created the theory of natural selection). Dugatkin writes, “While Darwin (1859) acknowledged that the struggle for existence is often metaphorical, insofar as it is often a struggle against the environment, Huxley … took a more extreme view.” Huxley believed that the animal world was on the same level of competition found in ancient gladiators. “Life is a continuous free fight,” Huxley wrote, and went on to say that “the state war of each [animal] against the other was a normal state of existence.”

    However, Wallace, in his book Darwinism (1891), argued the exact opposite, stating that “On the whole, the popular idea of the struggle for existence entailing misery and pain on the animal world is the very reverse of the truth.”

    The truth is that social living is not just about prey species finding safety in numbers, or group predators finding it easier to hunt large prey as a group. Being social has many benefits far beyond access to resources. As Dugatkin points out, goldfish tend to live longer lives when their group size increases; they also tend to grow faster when surrounded by more rather than less goldfish. Social amphibians are able to regenerate lost tails more quickly than those who aren’t part of a group. And social animals learn new tasks more quickly than solitary species do. All of this points to the likelihood that sociability and “cooperation” have a positive effect on survivability, while engaging in internecine battles or threats of aggression would have the opposite effect.

    In fact, there’s evidence to show that so-called dominant behaviors may shorten an animal’s life span and reduce his or her adaptive fitness…

    LCK

  19. Ben says:

    Thanks for your patience in explaining– I understand the argument now. I still have some objections (it seems like the argument here is assuming 100% efficiency) but I’ll have to read up some more before being able to further present the case intelligently.

    So the p-cog is a phenomenal experience– in other words could it be thought of like the internal experience of the color “red”? When an external object is perceived by the brain, it is bound with the p-cog quality after processing the normal sensory input like sight, sound, smell, etc? So depending on movement, physical size, structure, smell, and what memories are accessed determines how far the p-cog is knocked out of equilibrium. The brain works to retain p-cog equilibrium by setting behavior into action and uses the p-cog as a tuning mechanism to determine how to respond to the external object being perceived.

    For me, trying to understand something even in a reductionist fashion doesn’t take away the wonder, mystery, or beauty of it. Rest assured my dog and the relationship I have with my dog is consistently humbling to me. I do think it would do the NDT model well to translate as much of it as possible into the established knowledge and parlance– in other words, translate “Heart” for example into its specific, physical constituents. Even though a reductionist approach may not tell you how it works as a whole, it will no doubt allow a more thorough and specific understanding. For example, consciousness and exactly what it is and how it occurs is still hotly debated both from a neuroscientific and philosophical standpoint. The advances from neuroscience have helped narrow the arguments considerably, though. I don’t see why the same couldn’t be true here. While the nuts and bolts of physical systems may seem “cold” to some, reality is based on them including everything in NDT and that can be leveraged to develop the model even further and more specifically.

  20. Kevin Behan says:

    Thanks in turn for your perseverance in trying to understand my argument. Yes the p-cog is a subjective impression like the color red, however it is at the same time objectively real since it is the point around which the body must always be configured in order for the animal to remain upright and/or in motion. The p-cog is therefore the focal point of the subliminal attention of the animal and it is my contention that this is more vivid an aspect of its view of the world than is anything happening externally, and is the basis for how the animal mind constructs a view of reality.

    BEN: “So depending on movement, physical size, structure, smell, and what memories are accessed determines how far the p-cog is knocked out of equilibrium.”

    KB: Yes because the internal subliminal beam of attention is more real to the animal than anything external, external variables are perceived as disturbances to its state of equilibrium, thus the animal feels accelerated to return its emotional equilibrium to neutral, which means bringing the external variable “to ground,”which can occur on a number of levels. In the overall whatever sequence of actions we observe can be expressed as one point (subject’s p-cog) trying to make contact and reunite with another point (object’s p-cog). < > This also percolates up into human intellectual discourse with the admonition to a rambling speaker to “get to the point,” an intuitive recognition of this unconscious impulse. This point-to-point “collineation” is at the heart of the auto-tuning and feedback loop by which two beings navigate their way to more complex interactions and ultimately an emotional bond. At any rate and to back up, once knocked off balance (stimulated) the animal is invested with a degree of emotional momentum and so all physical memories of experience from whatever next happens are endowed with the values of momentum/force and specific point mapping, in other words, a point in the external world correlates with a specific point in the animal’s body. Thus when the external variable containing that point moves, the animal subliminally tracks and feels a point within its own body moving, what I call the emotional center-of-gravity. Due to the power of Pavlovian conditioning, this e-cog (or virtual p-cog) can move around even when the actual p-cog is stationary when the animal is standing still. (We likewise experience this phenomenon when sitting passively in a movie theater or when watching a sporting contest and have projected our “self” into the objects on the screen or out on the field of play.) I would also like to add that the physical body is curved and pelages in a specific way to draw the eye, nose and tongue, i.e. to induce projection, to points of access on the body which lead to this internal point.

    BEN: “translate “Heart” for example into its specific, physical constituents.”

    When two beings project their self (e-cog) into each other, and then can turn their respective emotional momenta into synchronized and aligned movements then this collectivized movement of the system draws the subliminal beam of attention to the heart region (as well as focusing the external gaze on the other being’s shoulder region) because the individual’s forequarters are soft and able to rotate in all planes, and this is associated subliminally with a deep and metered breathing pattern, and this directly affects Vagal Tone so that the entire organism is relaxed and does not in such a state perceive there to be a barrier existing between itself and the object of its projection. The animal feels that its breathing pattern and its calm state is what causes the external object of projection to bring pleasure into its body and mind. So my argument is that heart is real and is a bigger player in social behavior than neurology and brain chemistry even though of course these are as vital to executing the necessary actions as is our own computer’s cpu to bringing the Internet up on the screen. Nevertheless we don’t mistakenly assume that our computer is the source of the information on our screen, and this we hold to be true even when something in our computer breaks and there is no more information on the screen.

    BEN: “consciousness and exactly what it is and how it occurs is still hotly debated both from a neuroscientific and philosophical standpoint.”

    KB: From my reading of animal behavior, and from what I understand of the current neuroscience and philosophy on the nature of consciousness which I concede is not complete, I would suggest that the most meaningful thing one can say about the nature of consciousness is that it is Energy Reflecting Back On Itself. At first this might sound simplistic, but it actually can serve to construct a model for how the animal mind perceives nature.

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