Navigation Links
Scientist postulates 4 aspects of 'humaniqueness' differentiating human and animal cognition

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Shedding new light on the great cognitive rift between humans and animals, a Harvard University scientist has synthesized four key differences in human and animal cognition into a hypothesis on what exactly differentiates human and animal thought.

In new work presented for the first time at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Marc Hauser, professor of psychology, biological anthropology, and organismic and evolutionary biology in Harvards Faculty of Arts and Sciences, presents his theory of humaniqueness, the factors that make human cognition special. He presents four evolved mechanisms of human thought that give us access to a wide range of information and the ability to find creative solutions to new problems based on access to this information.

Animals share many of the building blocks that comprise human thought, but paradoxically, there is a great cognitive gap between humans and animals, Hauser says. By looking at key differences in cognitive abilities, we find the elements of human cognition that are uniquely human. The challenge is to identify which systems animals and human share, which are unique, and how these systems interact and interface with one another.

Recently, scientists have found that some animals think in ways that were once considered unique to humans: For example, some animals have episodic memory, or non-linguistic mathematical ability, or the capacity to navigate using landmarks. However, despite these apparent similarities, a cognitive gulf remains between humans and animals.

Hauser presents four distinguishing ingredients of human cognition, and shows how these capacities make human thought unique. These four novel components of human thought are the ability to combine and recombine different types of information and knowledge in order to gain new understanding; to apply the same rule or solution to one problem to a different and new situation; to create and easily understand symbolic representations of computation and sensory input; and to detach modes of thought from raw sensory and perceptual input.

Earlier scientists viewed the ability to use tools as a unique capacity of humans, but it has since been shown that many animals, such as chimpanzees, also use simple tools. Differences do arise, however, in how humans use tools as compared to other animals. While animal tools have one function, no other animals combine materials to create a tool with multiple functions. In fact, Hauser says, this ability to combine materials and thought processes is one of the key computations that distinguish human thought.

According to Hauser, animals have laser beam intelligence, in which a specific solution is used to solve a specific problem. But these solutions cannot be applied to new situations or to solve different kinds of problem. In contrast, humans have floodlight cognition, allowing us to use thought processes in new ways and to apply the solution of one problem to another situation. While animals can transfer across systems, this is only done in a limited way.

For human beings, these key cognitive abilities may have opened up other avenues of evolution that other animals have not exploited, and this evolution of the brain is the foundation upon which cultural evolution has been built, says Hauser.


Contact: Amy Lavoie
Harvard University

Related biology news :

1. Dung happens and helps scientists
2. Swedish university honors probiotics scientist
3. Priming scientists for successful media interviews
4. Cell biologists announce child-care grants for scientist-parents at annual meeting
5. Scientists expand understanding of how river carbon impacts the Arctic Ocean
6. Fishermen and UCSB scientists explore ways to improve management of California spiny lobsters
7. Scientists rebuild ancient proteins to reveal primordial Earths temperature
8. Rice scientists make breakthrough in single-molecule sensing
9. Carnegie Mellon scientists develop fluorescent proteins for live cell imaging, biosensor design
10. Scientists obtain core samples from subsea fault system off Japan
11. Core blimey! University of Leicester scientist calls for geological time machine
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/29/2015)... -- Daon, a global leader in mobile biometric authentication ... version of its IdentityX Platform , IdentityX v4.0. ... have already installed IdentityX v4.0 and are seeing ... UAF certified server component as an option and ... These customers include some of the largest and most ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... , Oct. 27, 2015 In the ... issues of concern for various industry verticals such as ... due to the growing demand for secure & simplified ... various ,sectors, such as hacking of bank accounts, misuse ... electronic equipment such as PC,s, laptops, and smartphones are ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... 2015  Delta ID Inc., a company focused on ... PC devices, announced its ActiveIRIS® technology powers the iris ... launched by NTT DOCOMO, INC in Japan ... smartphone to include iris recognition technology, after a very ... in May 2015, world,s first smartphone to have this ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... Halozyme Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: HALO ) will be ... York on Wednesday, December 2 at 9:30 a.m. ET/6:30 ... CEO, will provide a corporate overview. th Annual ... 1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. PT . Jim Mazzola , ... corporate overview. --> th Annual Oppenheimer Healthcare Conference ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ:  AEZS) (TSX: ... behalf of the Toronto Stock Exchange, confirms that as ... no corporate developments that would cause the recent movements ... --> About Aeterna Zentaris Inc. ... --> Aeterna Zentaris is a specialty biopharmaceutical company ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), led by ... known as Multirotor Grand Prix, to represent the First–Person View (FPV) racing community. , ... have embraced this type of racing and several new model aviation pilots have joined ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ: ... the remaining 11,000 post-share consolidation (or 1,100,000 pre-share ... "Series B Warrants") subject to the previously disclosed ... 23, 2015, which will result in the issuance ... to the issuance of such shares, there will ...
Breaking Biology Technology: