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Nov 15, 2021 | 0 comments

Be sure to join host Maureen Armstrong for the inaugural episode of The Animal Guide for Curious Humans.

The Animal Guide for Curious Humans brings animal lovers, wildlife experts and decision makers together to discuss the habits and behaviours of animals—including us—and ways we can live together harmoniously in light of ever-increasing population, resource and climate pressures.

In this episode, Maureen talks with Professor Kristin Andrews, a Toronto-based animal researcher and author, who teaches philosophy at York University and is a College member of the Royal Society of Canada.  Kristin’s book The Animal Mind is a fascinating journey into animal cognition as revealed by researchers studying a wide range of species around the globe.

Like most animal lovers, Kristin’s interest in animals began with house pets and watching programs like “Flipper” on TV, but it wasn’t long before she was in Hawaii studying real dolphins, and from there she has travelled all over the world getting to know a variety of species, writing about her findings, and working with colleagues from different disciplines.  She is a preeminent scholar in the field of animal cognition and has written extensively on the subject.

You may be familiar with studies on animal communication and tool use, but how about culture and social norms, morality and ethics, personality and emotions? Viewing animals through a philosophical lens reveals some of the shortcomings of animal studies to date, and the many opportunities that exist for us to better understand animals, improve our relationships with them and co-exist more harmoniously. 

It’s a discussion that will have you questioning your own assumptions about animals, and thinking in new ways about who they are and what they’re trying to tell us.

Kristin is author of the books How To Study Animal Minds and The Animal Mind.

Don’t miss it!

Episode Links:

Episode Transcript

[music]

Maureen Armstrong:

Hi, everyone. Thanks for tuning in. On today’s show, we are taking a look at the animal mind and some of the parallels between nonhuman animal cognition and and that of we humans. Our guest today is Kristin Andrews. She is a professor of philosophy at York University in Toronto, Canada and she’s the York Research Chair in animal minds. Kristin is the author of a number of books including one called the animal mind. A revised version of it was just published last year in 2020. And in that book, she covers really extensively a number of empirical studies associated with animal cognition that have been done across multiple disciplines, whether it be anthropology, pure science, psychology, it’s quite a fascinating read. It really does illuminate the extent to which animals can problem solve. They can discern sensory preferences like taste or feel, communicate with with each other, and even create cultural norms much as we humans do. During this show, you’re going to hear Kristin use a number of concrete examples from studies around the world and she covers quite a vast array of animal species, so we’ve got dolphins and orangutans. There’s even rats and and birds in there and even some fish. So with that, let’s dive into the animal mind with Kristin Andrews.

[music]

Kristin Andrews:

My name is Kristin Andrews. I’m a professor of philosophy at York University and York Research Chair in animal minds.

Maureen Armstrong:

Thanks Kristin. I’m happy to have you here. It’s great to be able to talk with you today.

Kristin Andrews:

It’s really nice to chat with you too. Thanks for inviting me.

Maureen Armstrong:

So how did you first become interested in this particular field of study, animal minds?

Kristin Andrews:

Well, ever since I was a child, I had animals around me and I was interested in what they could teach me. We adopted stray cats. I watched animals on TV. I watched Lassie and Flipper, and I thought that these animals could do these amazing things on TV. And you know, as a young child, I kind of believed everything I saw to begin with, but I also had these relationships with the stray cats we were adopting. And so I wanted to work with dolphins because of the Flipper TV show. The Flipper would always solve the, you know, solve the problem whenever there was a problem and he saved the day. So when I was in, in college at Antioch College, we had an internship program there and I pursued an internship at a dolphin lab. Lou Herman ran a dolphin lab in Honolulu, the Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Lab. And I wrote him a letter, an old fashioned handwritten letter, mailed it to him in the mail, and he wrote back to me and invited me to do to apply for an internship so I did an internship in Hawaii. As it turned out after I graduated from Antioch, I spent almost a year in Honolulu working with the dolphins, and so I learned how the scientists do actual research and I learned what dolphins are really like and they’re not at all like Flipper. That’s really was my aim and then as I had gotten my BA in philosophy and so all of these philosophical questions that I’ve been investigating about metaphysics and epistemology were then really interestingly illustrated with these relationships that the researchers had with the dolphins and the cognition research that we’re doing with them as well. So that’s how it all started really.

Maureen Armstrong:

Wow, amazing. It was probably a small community of philosophers at that time who were working on animal cognition, define it so that area, that field has grown in the 25 years or so that you’ve been in it?

Kristin Andrews:

It’s dramatically different and it’s been so exciting to watch this field develop. When I was doing my PhD, there were one or two philosophers who worked on on in animal cognition, research, and philosophy of mind and philosophy of science and they were my heroes. And then they became my mentors and together we created a society, the Society for Philosophy of Animal Minds with colleagues. I’ve created anthologies, Stanford encyclopedia entries on the philosophy of animal minds, textbooks on philosophy of animal minds. And there’s just so many people who are now interested in this topic. It is super exciting. And I’m, like I’m so grateful that I got to be a part of building this entirely new sub-discipline of philosophy. It’s been a fabulous ride and it’s something I’m proudest of.

Maureen Armstrong:

I can imagine. I can imagine. So maybe we can delve into it a little bit what exactly it means this particular area of study of yours. And, you know, historically, I think popular belief has been that that humans, they’re capable of rational thought in a way that animals are not and that animals just don’t have minds the way the way humans do. Obviously, the science has disproved that I think along the way. But what does it mean to say that animals have a mind?

Kristin Andrews:

Yeah, I want to, I want to first address this, this idea that it’s been common to think that animals don’t have minds because I think it’s a really peculiar idea that is specific to only some cultural humans. It’s a quite a European idea and I want to acknowledge that indigenous views of the interconnection of humans and other animals never have this idea that animals don’t have minds, right, Animals were are also inspirited beings who we have relationships with and who humans would respect. And you see this also across the globe and Japan, the idea that animals have cultures allowed. You know, researchers and laypeople like to see that monkeys have culture before science ever was willing to admit it in Europe or North America. And Maasai warriors in Kenya know how to track elephants and lions because they think of them as minded beings and try to understand what they can see and smell and hear. So I think it’s quite peculiar that some humans, you know, white Europeans predominantly had this worry that maybe animals don’t have minds. So science is rediscovering what humans knew before the enlightenment, namely that animals have minds. And what science is doing these days is helping us understand those minds better. So science had to accept the animals have minds before they could study them, so they didn’t show us the animals have minds. Like, we kind of knew that already and we had, you know, some of us had a problem and we we forgot.

Maureen Armstrong:

That’s an excellent point, excellent clarification. There is a a real sort of European kind of Western mentality around this that is quite distinct from, from other cultures all around the globe, right?

Kristin Andrews:

Yeah. One of my favorite examples is the is the term orangutan. So we know orangutan is one of the great apes. It’s native to Asia and it’s a Malaysian word, an Indonesian/Malaysian word. And if you translate it, it translates to person of the forest, right? Persons like humans, but they live in the forest and in the trees. So they’re person of the forest.

Maureen Armstrong:

Wow. That’s a fantastic example. So so the science around animal minds, there’s, as I understand it, sort of different aspects of how animal mind is studied. Can you tell us a little bit about that, what the various sort of fields of science are in in studying animal minds?

Kristin Andrews:

Yeah. We have learned a lot. The science has taught us a lot about what animal minds are able to do once we’ve started asking questions and like acknowledging that maybe there is something here to study. So for example, we’ve been able to study things like the sensory capacities of nonhuman animals and we’ve discovered really interesting things that, you know, humans usually use our vision. We’re very visual creatures. And so when we think about what other people’s people think about, we think about often what they see. But for other animals, other sensory modalities are predominant, like dogs have their ability to smell things and are really strong and really important. And when you walk your dog, if you have a dog, when I walk my dog, we’re very slow because he doesn’t care about looking around. He cares about sniffing everything and I have no idea what he’s understanding. But then animals, some animals have sensory modalities that we would have never even thought about like a sensitivity to the earth’s magnetic fields. And you see this in fish and in birds and in reptiles. Lots of species have these kinds of sensory capacities that we don’t have. Bat and dolphin echolocation is another famous example. So we’ve learned the animals sense the world differently than we sense the world and this helps us understand other things about their cognitive capacities. So just take for example communication. We communicate as humans. We communicate vocally and orally. But, and a lot of other animals communicate in this way too. But sometimes we communicate via touch as well. It’s not as salient to us that we’re communicating via touch. But for some animals communicating via touch is extremely important. So for example, when dolphins are communicating, they often engage in peck touches so they take their pectoral fin and they they touch another animal and it has it sends a message of affiliation of of what what’s going on when there’s some uncertainty about this situation. We know that when we look at what dolphins can do and other animals can do. We we know that they do also communicate vocally or orally at least when they don’t. Dolphins make squeaks from their blowhole, right. They don’t sound like Flipper. That was one thing I learned right away when I went to the dolphin lab that the Flipper sounds was they were chimpanzee sounds like some whistles.

Maureen Armstrong:

Chimpanzees would be another example of an of an animal that communicates a lot through touch I would think as well.

Kristin Andrews:

That’s definitely true. So what you see in chimpanzees are mothers carry their infants on their chest or on their back for a really long time. And the infants are able to sense how the mother is responding to the world. So they learn what is a threat and what is safe just by feeling the piloerection which is when the hairs get, you know, erect on like a cat when their their hair goes up, when they’re worried, you can feel that as an infant touching your mum that her hair is getting erect underneath you or her body is tensing up or her heart is beating more quickly and you can learn about the environment that way. You can learn what you need to be vigilant about and when when you can be relaxed. So it’s a very interesting idea that we can see that there’s joint attention in chimpanzees that doesn’t use just the the visual modality, right. So like in human joint attention, we often think about a parent and a child looking together at a toy as joint attention. But with chimpanzees and some other animals, the sensory modality might be might be touch instead. And a a York graduate student of ours, Maria Botero, is the first person to suggest this new way of thinking about joint attention in terms of touch.

Maureen Armstrong:

Wow, amazing. Is there a a predominance in modality of studying the nonhuman animal mind these days? So I would think that so there’s there’s psychology streams, there’s there would be questions of observation of animals in their natural environment versus in a controlled laboratory environment. No doubt there’s things going on full spectrum. But is there a tendency right now to focus more in one area than another?

Kristin Andrews:

I I would say no. And that’s what’s really exciting and also a little bit frustrating about the science right now because it’s transdisciplinary. So you have psychologists who are doing experiments in labs or zoos or rehabs with captive animals. You have biologists or anthropologists or primatologists who are in the field with, you know, all different sorts of species observing their behavior, sometimes doing experiments in the field as well. And you have, you know, the integration of this information from these different disciplines can sometimes be difficult because in academia, we often have conferences that are based in a discipline. And even within, you know, the animal cognition research, for example, there’s a conference in North America where a lot of the psychologists attend, but not very many field researchers attend this conference. But then there are conferences that are based on species so or taxes. So there’s a big international primatology conference and you have both field researchers and captive researchers coming together to this conference. But then they’re just talking about specific species, you know, primates and not seeing how this might be similar or different to elephants or corvids or dogs. So there’s, it’s really tricky because if you think about the sciences of human minds, we have psychology, anthropology, sociology, and we could go on, you know, economics, we’ve so many different disciplines to study one species. And what the animal cognition researchers have to do is study every other species including humans because it’s comparative using methods from all of these different disciplines. So it’s a, it’s a quite an exciting and challenging bit of science to do that is for sure. And I think that we’ll see a lot of interesting changes in the science and developments as some of some of these different transdisciplinary activities kind of bubble and and form their own disciplines the way anthropology and sociology and psychology all kind of differentiated themselves dealing humans.

Maureen Armstrong:

Yeah, amazing. I can only imagine how challenging it is to to, especially for for you and other philosophers in this area to to piece it all together.

Kristin Andrews:

We read a lot of science.

Maureen Armstrong:

I can imagine. I can imagine. So I’m, I’m wondering if we could chat a little bit about certain abilities. And again, this is, you know, it may be culturally specific, but we have a tendency to view humans as having certain capabilities that we think are or some think are superior to nonhuman animals or or that people just deny or don’t accept that nonhuman animals have similar abilities or capabilities. I’ve got a list of a few here and I thought maybe we could go through them and and and get your insight on on the significance of them what it means in in in a nonhuman animal world in comparison to for us as humans and and to do that not as a way of drawing when an animal performs certain behaviors that’s that’s akin to what a human does, we don’t want to get into all of that anthropomorphism but just to to see the extent to which nonhuman animals exhibit this very unique and complex capabilities just as we do as as humans. So the first one is the whole concept of and you talk about it in in your books, the ability to to read the mind of another to try to evaluate what is going on in the mind of another. Can you tell us a little bit about how that works in in one or more of the animal species that you’ve studied?

Kristin Andrews:

Yeah, sure. I mean, so one thing that we humans do and think that is pretty important is we have relationships with other humans and these relationships sometimes involve us just understanding the emotional state someone else is in, right. So that’s a form of kind of mind reading and know when you’re happy or when you’re sad, when you need a hug. And then there’s another kind of mind reading that we might do when I’m trying to explain what you’re doing in terms of your reasons for action. So you might do something puzzling. And I think, oh, well, let me explain, make sense of what Maureen just did by saying she, you know, climbed up on top of the roof because she believed that someone threw a Frisbee up there and wanted to retrieve it, right? That makes sense of something that looks strange, strange to me. And so when we are asking about whether animals mind read or think about the minds of others, there’s a whole host and range of ways in which we can think about animals ability to do this. So first just like the emotion reading and whether there’s empathy and comforting. There’s a lot of evidence of this in nonhuman species. And one of my favorite examples these days is work that’s done on rats in the laboratory. So it we know that rats have very tight social networks and and social relationships and even that rats seem to show empathy for a cage mate. And the reason why we know this is from experiments that are a bit mean. So one of a a rat is put in a restrainer in a little transparent tube and trapped and then another rat is put in a cage outside of this trapped tube, and that rat can open the tube and release their cage mate and the rats do this right away reliably. And so the the researchers wanted to know well, is it just because the rat that’s in the tube is vocalizing in an annoying way, right, the way we might try to, you know, put a pacifier in a baby without worrying about how the baby feels. I mean, just trying to get the noise to stop. And so they did a number of different sorts of experiments, variations on that experiment, and for example, gave the other rat an opportunity to escape and just leave the noise. They didn’t leave. They’d open the restrainer and free their friend. They gave the the rat an opportunity to eat chocolate. So put delicious chocolate in the cage. Even rats like chocolate. And the rat would free the cage mate before eating the chocolate and then sharing the chocolate with the cage mate. So these variations on this experiment suggests that the rat is able to understand that the trapped cage mate is suffering, has some negative emotion, and also has some desire to help free the cage mate, right. So that’s a that’s a kind of emotional reading mind reading. There’s a lot of research on chimpanzees of this. Frans de Waal is famous for his work showing consolation and reconciliation among chimpanzees. So if if you’re a chimpanzee and your friend loses a fight, you might go over and put your arm around your friend and console them, make them feel better if they’ve been feeling sad. When it comes to these more (inaudible 21:08) needed forms of we might call it sophisticated forms of like offering reasons for why someone’s doing something weird, there has been some really interesting research lately by Chris Krupenye and his colleagues from Max Planck Institute and Kyoto Primate Research Center where they look to see if chimpanzees are able to track the false beliefs of somebody else. So the way this is tested in humans and has been tested for 40 years is this test called a Sally-Anne task. So a kid is given a little puppet show or story, Sally has a chocolate, she wants to hide the chocolate in the box, and then she leaves the room. While she’s gone and comes into the room, she takes the chocolate from the box and puts it in the basket and then leaves the room. Sally comes back into the room, looks to go for her chocolate, says I want my chocolate, and then child is asked where is she going to go to get her chocolate. And until about three or four, kids will say, well, she’s going to go get the chocolate in the basket where it is because they don’t understand that Sally has a different belief than they do. But once they’re four or five or six and what what we’re able to do for the most part if we’re tracking the story is say, oh, Sally is going to go look for the chocolate where she left it in the box because she has a false belief. And Chris Krupenye and his colleagues did an ingenious experiment with chimpanzees giving them an a very violent and exciting version of the Sally-Anne task with a King Kong fighting a human hiding in haystacks and sticks and they found that the the chimpanzees and orangutans do exactly the same thing that the kids do. Now, of course they don’t make a choice using language, but the researchers are able to track their prediction by using eye tracking techniques. So they’re looking to see where the the apes are looking to anticipate, where the humans going to go to look for the the King Kong character even though he’s not really there because the human has a false belief. Yeah, so it’s it’s been a super interesting time for this research developing with these new technologies that allow us to understand what what other species are able to do even though we can’t ask them questions the way we can ask humans.

Maureen Armstrong:

Humans. Exactly. Thinking back on your example of the rats, it it also seems to signal a problem solving capability when you think of how the rat helped to figure out how to get his his or her friend out of the tube. There’s a bit of a problem solving there. So that gets into, you know, (inaudible 24:04) what is some have thought as uniquely human characteristic of the creation of tools, right, you know, the invention of the wheel and what an amazing thing that’s been for humanity. Can you tell us a little bit about about use of tools, creation of tools in in the nonhuman animal world?

Kristin Andrews:

Yeah, sure. It’s a, it’s a really interesting topic I think when you look at the history of our changing or the kind of scientific European North American changing view of animals because it was Jane Goodall who really first popularized to the West that other animals can make and use tools. And this prompted Louis Leakey to famously say something along the lines that well, Aristotle defined human as the toolmaker and now we’re going to have to either redefine human or include chimpanzees as humans, right because Jane Goodall saw that these chimpanzees are using tools. And they’re not, they’re not using tools that they find, but they have to create the tools. So they have to select a branch, they have to peel the leaves off the branch, they have to sometimes bite the branch. So it’s got the right kind of point in order to use it for things like fishing for termites or dipping for ants. Or I mean and more recently, we’ve learned that chimpanzees make spears, some chimpanzees will make spears out of bigger branches and use these spears to kind of slam into holes in trees to impale bush babies, which are smaller primates which they then eat. So there’s there’s using tools for hunting, as well as using tools for things like fishing and for you know wiping their face or orangutans will make an umbrella out of a large leaf if it’s raining and and cover their heads. And it’s not just great apes who do this. What we found more recently is that corvids like scrub jays, Caledonian crows are also making tools in the wild. So you might have heard of Betty the crow, the famous Betty the crow, who was a New Caledonian crow in a laboratory was given a straight piece of wire and a tube with a piece of meat on the bottom. And what Betty did was she very quickly bent the wire into a hook and then used the hook to, to get the meat out and eat it. And everyone thought, oh, Betty is genius. How did she do this? And then scientists who were in the field said, oh, yeah, that’s what New Caledonian crows do. Typically, they learn how to make hooks and they socially learn from other crows and this is a cultural behavior that they they use for getting grubs in the wild. It’s the the great apes and the the corvids right now who we know are really good toolmakers. We know that other animals use tools too, but the kind of degree of sophistication we see in this two (inaudible 27:08), we haven’t seen elsewhere yet, but you know we’ve only started looking. It’s not very long.

Maureen Armstrong:

Right. Right. Well, a slightly different but similar example is, is I think of my dog, of course she’s not making the tool, but her utilization of pillows and blankets to she will prop them with great intricacy, so that she’s got a perfectly comfortable place on the sofa. So she’ll move them around to exactly suit her need. So she’s solving a problem of her own comfort using the the pillows and blankets that are available to manipulating them.

Kristin Andrews:

Comfort is very important and I think that it’s something that is worthy of more scientific attention because so many species make nests, right. Our dogs do make nest. My dog has been digging in the dirt recently and making a very nice little cool spot in the dirt. Great apes will build nests and trees to sleep in. Birds build nests. And these are done for comfort reasons and these might sometimes be also done quite strategically. So there’s some suggestion that great apes are picking particular kinds of leaves when they’re being bitten by bugs that have insecticidal properties. So they might not just be, you know, the comfy cushion, but also the comfy medicine that I can put on in my nest when I’m building it that keeps the the uncomfortable bugs away.

Maureen Armstrong:

Amazing. Amazing. Okay, so the next one, I wonder, I’m really curious to hear what you have to say. So humans have a lot of what we call culture. You know, we create music, we have theater, we, you know, we have art, what what’s your view on culture in the nonhuman animal world?

Kristin Andrews:

I think that the idea that’s become more appreciated in the last 20 years among European scientists is that animals also have culture, has been one of the most exciting changes in the field. And by looking at animal culture and how it’s like and unlike human culture, I think we’re really having we’re making some progress and understanding the evolution of culture and also understanding culture as a kind of secondary inheritance mechanism. So we all have been taught about the genetic inheritance mechanism. I have blue eyes because my parents have blue eyes. This is something that, you know, we share with other animals and it’s never been disputed. But biologists and anthropologists have been talking lately about culture also as a secondary inheritance mechanism. So I also like the music I like because my parents played this music for me when I was little and I formed associations, and I play the same music for my child and so she’s also appreciating the same kind of 70s rock my parents played for me, right. So we have these these cultural traditions as well. You know, famously, you know, style of dress. How we eat with a fork and a knife? How we greet? Do we shake hands? Do we hug? Do we kiss on the cheek? Do we bow? Do we do something else? And when we look at nonhuman animals, we see that there are these differences within groups of individuals of the same species to and then there are differences of course between species as well, right. So they’re they’re greeting rituals that we see in nonhuman animals. Some, some are very interesting and strange like baboons, who baboon males who handle each other’s testicles when they greet each other. It’s called ball bouncing or whales who bite each other’s tongues. You know, there’s some some very interesting and risky behaviors that it’s kind of like French kissing for humans, which we do only in special I think, not a not in normal (inaudible 31:13) most cultures, but these like how to greet and how to, how to interact with one another and how to touch and engage in risky touching is something that has to be learned. It’s not something that’s innate and biological. And so culture is understood as socially transmitted patterns of behavior that persist for some time and are transmitted across generations. And we see this in nonhuman animals since about 2000 when it was first introduced as a concept in chimpanzees in the Western tradition. The Japanese primatologists were talking about culture in macaques long before that, but I think that the science really took off about 20 years ago. And now we see culture in cetaceans, in whales and dolphins. We see culture in birds. One of the really interesting places we see culture in birds and in whales and dolphins is in their songs, so different communities sing different songs. And the songs get learned as, you know, an individual grows up or and then moves to a new group, they learn the song of a new group. One of the the things I really like about dolphins I think is super interesting is dolphins have a signature whistle that they develop as they mature. And then when they affiliate, so males when they affiliate with other males and form groups, they change their signature whistle to take on some of the other individual’s signature whistle. So they each have individual names, signature whistles, but they’re all connected, kind of like when people get married and they change their last name to signify their affiliation with this, this other person. So they’re really interesting social kind of cultural features like that and then there’s also all kinds of different practices that you see that vary from group to group. So like this group will crack nuts, this group of chimpanzees will crack nuts using wooden hammers, this group of chimpanzees will crack nuts using stone hammers. If a, if a chimpanzee female immigrates from one community to another community, she changes her behavior to conform to her new community. She stops cracking nuts the way she did as a young in and conforms to the new behavior. And it seems like she does this even when the new behavior is less efficient than the old behavior, which is super interesting. (inaudible 33:45). Even for chimpanzees, it seems.

Maureen Armstrong:

Isn’t that amazing?

Kristin Andrews:

It’s a fascinating field of of research and I’m I’m I’ve been loving working on it. We just had a conference last week on norms in animals, social norms in animals and it was very exciting. We had 300 people in our Zoom Room from every continent except for Antarctica. People are really keen on trying to look at animal communities using this lens of culture and social norms and seeing if we can better understand animal interactions and also interactions between humans and other animals. In a lot of the world there’s, you know, conflict as humans move into territory that animals had or take away animal land. Right now, there are stories about elephants in China who have been traveling for months and scientists are trying to figure out why. And it probably has something to do with the lack of resources in their traditional lands and they’re looking for these resources elsewhere. If we think about the relationship between humans and elephants as one that is grounded in social norms that maybe are not helpful that we could change, we can maybe use that framework to help our interaction with nonhuman animals, think differently about about that to make the world better for us to live side by side.

Maureen Armstrong:

Yeah. We’ll have the chance a little later to chat a bit about some of your books, but I understand you’ve done a second edition of the animal mind. And that culture in particular, this this subject is is one of the key elements that is, you’ve you’ve added in a lot more detail around that in in the second edition.

Kristin Andrews:

Yeah, that’s right. It’s a it’s a new chapter that I was very excited to add given how much how much cutting edge research there is on the top.

Maureen Armstrong:

Yeah, that’s great. Okay, so let’s continue on with our list of some of the abilities or capabilities or or concepts that we sometimes think of as as exclusive to humans, morality, ethical behavior, this sort of area. We develop moral codes, ethical codes all the time to inform as humans how we’re interacting with one another. We may or may not abide by those codes after we’ve made them. What’s it like in the in the nonhuman animal studies around that kind of subject?

Kristin Andrews:

And we’ve touched on it a little bit already when I discussed the rat empathy studies since empathy is often taken to be a moral emotion that shows some prosocial concern for another individual that were and then there’s a resulting helping behavior. So we we see things like that in nonhuman animals. We don’t see codes. We don’t see rules that are stated or presented or written down, but I think if we if we really look at a lot of the, the way humans are moral, I think that a lot of this comes from very early moral education and and in the prosocial tendencies that we share with nonhuman animals. So you know, as little kids we have, you know, were selfish, but we also cared for others and we learned how to balance that when our parents say things like share your toys or, you know, how do you think that child feels when you do this thing to them. We help scaffold this innate tendency to care for others. And we see in the tenants prosocial tendencies and other animals as well, which really shouldn’t be that surprising since morality is there to help individuals live together, right? If we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t. You know, as Hobbes told us, we wouldn’t be able to trust anyone long enough to go to sleep, right? Life would be nasty, brutish, and short. We’d be worried someone might come behind us every every minute and not live without some trust of the other people around us and understanding that they have our interests in mind. And so we’ve evolved, all social organisms have evolved to kind of work together and coordinate behavior in large groups. So prosocial tendencies exists across species from rats to chimpanzees, and the kind of codification we see in humans, I think is also culturally distinct and is a somewhat recent evolutionary development if you think about, you know, how long hominids have been living together. And when those laws were first put on the stone tablets, you know, in evolutionary terms wasn’t all that long ago.

Maureen Armstrong:

That’s true. That’s true. Absolutely. Right. What about personalities, the concept of distinct personalities? You know, we know it well. Children from the same households, human children from the same household can have vastly different personalities. And I’m guessing it’s, it’s, it’s very similar in in the nonhuman animal world.

Kristin Andrews:

Yeah, it is. This is a topic that was was really interesting and and got a lot of attention maybe like 15 years ago. Alexander Weiss was a social psychologist who turned using who started using the big five personality measures for other species and he saw that there, you know, factor analysis we can do for chimpanzees and for all sorts of different species. I don’t remember all the species he did. I think he did octopuses as well maybe, but certainly there are individual differences and this is something that scientists have confirmed our intuitions that there are difference, personality differences in nonhuman animals. It’s something that I noticed right away working with the the dolphins. We had two dolphins, two female dolphins that I worked with a lot, Akeakamai and Phoenix. Akeakamai was the show off. She was like the cheerleader. She was the one that whenever the media came who performed the leaps and you know would would do anything for praise. Phoenix I related to more because she was kind of like the punk rock, I don’t care about you, I’m not going to perform, I’m going to just hang out and do my own thing. She wasn’t. So they’re very stark differences in in personality. And because Phoenix and I got along so well, my job when the media came was to just hang out and cuddle Phoenix and distract her and whistle and and play with her because otherwise she would go and try to disrupt Phoenix, Akeakamai showing off. The personality just like in in dogs is a really, really clear in nonhuman animals. There are individual differences for sure, which makes the science interesting. You have to use psychometrics approaches, as well as generalizations across populations. Not everybody, not all the animals in your subject pool are going to work want to do the work that you’re offering them. And if they don’t do the task, it doesn’t mean they can’t do the task. They might just not care.

Maureen Armstrong:

Right. Right. That makes sense. Yeah. The personality would drive how how they may, how any individual of them may respond to whatever the experiment is that one is doing and the study that one is undertaking.

Kristin Andrews:

Yeah, for sure.

Maureen Armstrong:

Yeah. So the last one is, is emotions and and mood and how they get expressed. Obviously, the there’s some degree of variation no doubt even even amongst the personality variations. Surely, there’s also mood and emotional situations for for animals. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Kristin Andrews:

Yeah, sure. This has been another topic of research that’s been super exciting lately because of technological improvements. So when when things scientists have been doing is using the Paul Ekman’s facial action coding system on nonhuman animals, so this is a system he developed for humans in order to try to understand human emotional states and how they’re, he thought, fairly culturally universal at least some emotions and that they could be recognized on faces that were engaged in different, you know, muscular contractions, so like this versus, versus that and ooh and so on, so forth. And so these have been developed for other species like chimpanzees and dogs and cats in order to try to correlate behaviors and hormones with these different facial expressions and bodily postures. And research has been done using these, these animations that are based on, you know, muscular movements that are very precise and asking, for example, asking chimpanzees to match a face with a situation of facial emotional expression with a situation which they’re able to do pretty well. But then other technological improvements have to do with measuring hormones. So we’ve gotten, you know, the visible signs of emotion, which would be body posture like this and and facial expressions, but then we hide our emotions too, right. We don’t always really advertise them, but our hormones and our heart and other physiological measures can be used to to look at the emotions of nonhuman animals. So Cortisol or stress hormones can be measured noninvasively by looking at feces and urine, also can be measured distally by looking at temperature. So for example, marmosets who have noses without hair, you can do you can measure their their emotional responses using a heat sensing gun from afar as they’re engaged in experiments, so you can know whether they’re aroused or not aroused. Also, looking at eye dilations can be used as a physiological measure of emotional arousal level. So there’s been really interesting work on on emotion using these new technologies that allow us to get at information about whether say a marmoset is upset when their partner because marmosets are cooperative breeders and partners when their partner comes back after having an aversive experience or whether they don’t care. And spoiler alert, they care. They’ll groom their partner much more after they’ve come back after having an aversive experience versus a non-aversive experience for example.

Maureen Armstrong:

Oh, it’s just extraordinary how much great study is happening, right. And and as you said earlier, there are so many species to study, and only so many scientists and philosophers doing the work, it’s it’s it’s it’s quite a but it’s wonderful to see that there’s this much attention being paid to nonhuman animals at this point in time.

Kristin Andrews:

It is great. And there’s there’s definitely a room for more. I’m I’m I’m trying to get my own institution to hire more scientists to do this research. We’re writing grants. We’re trying to support postdocs. It all costs money, right? So the, the hope is that people will realize that these are areas of research that really deserve funding, grant funding, research lines at universities, and things like that.

Maureen Armstrong:

Yeah, good luck with that. I hope you’re successful in encouraging them to expand. So during your, your time studying this area, is there one particular discovery that that for you has been the most surprising?

Kristin Andrews:

I I don’t know. I mean, there are a couple of, I can tell you one anecdote of something that happened to me that was personally surprising that kind of illustrates the science of animal cognition. So that before I ever interacted with great apes, I was reading a lot of the research on great apes and this was in the early 2000s, in the late 90 1990s where there was a lot of negative findings being published, but things like chimpanzees don’t understand others false beliefs which we now know they do, that chimpanzees don’t mind read, that chimpanzees don’t engage in joint attention which I think now we do once we understand that the sensory modality of touch is really important. So all these claims about negative findings that I was reading and I hadn’t yet been able to do any research on my own, and so I was invited to go out to to Borneo with Anne Russon, a professor at York University where she had a research site with rehabilitant orangutans, so these are orangutans who lost their moms at an early age and were being taught in forest schools by humans how to be orangutans. So she invited me out and I went out, and the first day I was in a forest school, was a a revelation because everything I read was wrong. Chimpanzees do understand, you know, other’s mental states because they, they stole things from us, they distracted us, and (inaudible 47:32) distracted me and he stole my pen and ran away and left. Joint attention occurs because there was joint attention happening in front of my eyes with these little infant orangutans. Social referencing occurred. I saw little orangutans looking at the human caregivers as they were doing a task checking to see if they were doing it right or if something was okay or if they were going to be punished for doing this or not. So all of these things I had read that, that great apes don’t do, I saw them do in a matter of hours and that was really a revelation. And so it helped me understand a little bit more about how science is done and what to think about the negative results that got published, as well as it gave me a really different view of orangutans. And I think that starting with that view, I had interacting with them in a kind of a social context where there was one orangutan who was terrified of me and fascinated by me. I looked different from Indonesian people. And so I was very strange and very interesting. And (inaudible 48:38) really wanted to, to hang out with me. So that curiosity lasted the entire time I was there. At one point, I I’ll just tell you (inaudible 48:49) was approaching me with a big stick and he poked me from far away. He was scared to get too close. And then he bit off an end of the stick, so he could get a little closer and poke me and then bit off another end of the stick so he could get a little closer and he did this until we were quite proximate. And then he got scared and ran away. And it was the very last day I was in the forest like I was sitting on a log and he walked up and sat down right next to me and we just sat together on a log. I was like that experience changed, changed a lot for me and it made me realize that spending time with with the species you’re studying is really important. Getting to know them as as a species and also as individuals is really important. And it’s how we do research with humans. Nobody goes to study human without knowing anything about humans without having a baseline of understanding about what humans do and we take it for granted because we are human. And the idea that we can go and study some other species without having that same kind of baseline is is just I think a quite a big mistake. So to realize that we’re starting from a kind of common sense, I’ve called this folk expertise when we’re working with humans. In developing this, when we’re studying animals, it’s also going to be really important to make progress and not just come back with one, you know, negative result after another because we didn’t know how to elicit the behavior we are interested in.

Maureen Armstrong:

Right. Right. So testing those assumptions before one is going into the study to ensure that you don’t end up with coming out with drawing conclusions that are really quite inaccurate.

Kristin Andrews:

Yeah. I mean, for example, if we wanted to test humans and see whether they cooperate by looking to see if two strangers will share a bite out of a peanut butter sandwich on a bus and they don’t like humans, they’ll cooperate (inaudible 50:50) study design. The aliens did not test us that way. And it it seems like sometimes we test nonhuman animals that way, ask him to do things like. Of course, they’re not going to do that, you know, cooperate in that way. But they’ll cooperate in this other way that I only know because I understand how they interact naturally.

Maureen Armstrong:

Yeah. Yeah. Fascinating. Fascinating. So you know, all of this wonderful study and science and, and reaching out and observations of nonhuman animals has a lot of intrinsic value just in its own right, but clearly one of the most important things for many of us is how that can help inform a better relationship between humans and nonhuman animals. Do you have a vision of an ideal relationship between humans and animals that is some a reasonable aspiration for us to get to in the foreseeable future? What would be your thought on that?

Kristin Andrews:

Yeah, I mean, I think that the first step and and and I think it’s a reasonable one is to be honest about what we know about other animals and to be honest to our children from an early age about what other animals are that they’re that they’re minded agents that we should respect right along the lines of the indigenous ways of understanding humans and animals as interconnected and related. What we see what I saw when I became a mother and sort of reading books to my baby is that there are tons of books about animals and they’re all wrong, right. They anthropomorphize animals and then we feed our children meat, but we don’t call it, you know, cow and pig. We have, we call it beef and pork, and just being honest about what animals are are capable of doing and and that they feel and that when we are using animals in these ways and as pets and as food and as entertainment and in our clothing and in our cars and all these things that we are using them, just be honest and open about that and not try to try to hide it. I think that really would be a would be a step towards a much more functional relationship with nonhuman animals. My kind of ideal is that we would all recognize that we all have a right to be here, right? That we were all just animals on this planet and we’re sharing space, and we don’t need to, you know, eradicates the raccoons who like to eat out of our garbage that maybe we can try to negotiate with them and make our garbage less attractive or, you know, build better bins for them. They don’t need our garbage to eat, right? They’re fine without the garbage. The rats that live in our backyards are also part of our environment. It’s a tricky negotiation. Sometimes when the rats get into the house, like that is something that is a is a real problem for us, that’s a real conflict. But if the rats are living in the backyard along with the squirrels, do we need to do anything about it or can we appreciate that the rats and the squirrels and the birds that you might feed are all just part of the natural world, they’re who are living their lives? I think, you know, that’s what I would like, like us to come to recognize. And I think some of the the science that we’re doing can really be helpful in achieving these goals. So there are humane animal control companies around that use science to understand what makes a raccoon or a squirrel want to climb into your attic. And when they remove them, how to make your attic not so attractive to them or what to do to make them decide to leave on their own, like play the CBC for a while for a podcast because what’s really nice for us to listen to might be aversive for a wild animal. So that sort of really positive outcomes of this science can help us in developing better relationships with animals and letting them know, hey, this is not your space, maybe go somewhere else, this is a good space for you. But these things have these sorts of practices have to go alongside government policy that lets there be space for nonhuman animals and doesn’t just keep developing the wild places so that there aren’t places left for the animals who are who are here alongside us.

Maureen Armstrong:

Yeah. Your examples are so, so amusing to me because I live in the countryside. I live in in Muskoka. It’s beautiful area. And of course, I not only is my four legged dog in the house, we’ve got lots of four legged mice that we’re always trying to encourage not to come into the house. And there is a squirrel who I I had named Simon who was living in the attic who I have now called Simone because I’m pretty sure she’s had some babies sometimes. And so we as a matter of fact do have a humane sort of control a company coming to help us close the place up as best we can so that it’s more difficult for them to come in. And that is really the most humane way of of dealing with having them in our lives is let’s figure out a way where it’s more difficult for them to get in the house in the first place. And then we don’t have to worry about, you know, because they can for sure be a problem. They chew wires and all kinds of things, chew. Simone was taking a lot of the insulation out. She must have a summer place down outside on the property and she was taking the stuff out with her looking very proud or at least this is me anthropomorphizing I’m sure. Anyhow, is there is there one or two things right today, if you for the listeners who who are are listening to this great information you’ve shared today. So one or two things you think people could do today that would move them in the direction of better understanding animals and reducing the adverse impact that that we humans have on nonhuman animals?

Kristin Andrews:

I think watching some documentaries about animals interacting with other animals to help educate yourself about how animals live together and live really interesting rich lives on their own. And some of these shows, so I have, like in mind, like Orangutan Island or Meerkat Manor. So these are, these are the shows that are scientifically grounded, have scientific advisors, but they’re not documentaries and the way, you know, some of the right famous nature, documentaries or just documentaries, right? They tell stories, these shows, they tell, you get to follow individuals for a long time. As they go about their lives, you see how even they might have babies or they might get into fights and how dominances might change and how there might be, you know, a battle with a scorpion that stings a meerkat and how someone might die and how others respond. So you’re really getting a bit more of an accurate understanding of what it’s like to be a member of a community like this that’s quite different from us in some ways, but is it’s still something that we can resonate with and show these documentaries to your your kids too and let them know that, hey, it’s not just that, you know, we love our dog and our cat, and we pick them up and hug them and don’t think about what they actually want. But animals are living their own lives all around us and sometimes we don’t even notice it. And you can go outside your house and watch the squirrel in your backyard or your park or, you know, the raccoons who walked down the street at night and just sit and watch them and think that they are living lives this way too. I think that is really actually, you know, it’s not tangible. It’s not like you’re you’re changing, you know, you’re donating money or doing something, but I think that that’s a really valuable way starting to think differently about animals by seeing them as other people, right, hopefully different from you and people, but they’re kind of their people too.

Maureen Armstrong:

Yeah, that’s fantastic. This has been amazing Kristin. Can you just before we go can you tell us a little bit about particularly your books, you have several excellent books and and also how people could connect with you? How do we how do we find you on social media and elsewhere?

Kristin Andrews:

Oh, sure. So I have a website, which is where you can find information about all my books and articles and links to other podcasts and things. And that’s www.kristinandrews.org and I’m on Twitter as Kristin Andrewz with a Z instead of an S. But yeah, so some of the, I published two books last year. One is the animal mind, which is an introduction to the philosophy of animal cognition with Routledge press. And I go through a host of kind of traditional philosophical problems about the nature of mind, consciousness, belief, representation, communication, also culture and theory of mind and morality from the perspective of the animal cognition literature, really integrating philosophy literature, some traditional debates in philosophy and showing how those debates can be eliminated by what we know about animals. I also last year published a book called how to study animal minds, which is super tiny. And I argue in this book that we should as we’re doing the science start with assumptions that animals are conscious, not spend any more time really arguing that animals are conscious. And I argue that there’s so much fecundity that comes if we just start with that basic assumption. And people ask, what kind of animals you’re talking about dogs and cats or when I say I’m talking about snakes and I’m talking about bumblebees and I’m talking about the octopus. And like if we start with the assumption and see how far that assumption can get us, maybe we’ll we’ll realize that assumption isn’t rich and fecund in the science and that might give us some reason to doubt the assumption about some species. But if we don’t start with the assumption, we’re never going to see how far it can get us and that’s how science works, it works on promising things. So that’s a really nice little book if you’re interested in methodology of science. I also have a case where I talk about field versus lab research in with chimpanzees and how there’s been quite a bit of a debate there about how bringing them together could be really helpful. And then I have another book that might be of interest to some of your your listeners on personhood and chimpanzees. There’s like kind of a political movement in the US about whether nonhuman animals should be given legal personhood status, and with a a group of (inaudible 1:02:06) 10 other philosophers, we wrote a an amicus brief to support a lawsuit and also wrote a little book that’s called chimpanzee personhood, the philosopher’s brief I think, also published at Routledge, all that’s on my website if you’re interested.

Maureen Armstrong:

Excellent. Fantastic. Well, listen, thank you so much for taking the time with us here today. It was incredibly rich. You’ve given us so much to think about and I am really grateful for you spending some time with us.

Kristin Andrews:

Well, thank you, Maureen. Your questions were great. And you led me to down memory lane a little bit. Was a lot of fun talking with you.

Maureen Armstrong:

I look forward to doing it again sometime in the future.

Kristin Andrews:

Great.

Maureen Armstrong:

Take care.

Kristin Andrews:

Bye bye.

[music]

Maureen Armstrong:

Thanks again to Kristin for joining us today on this inaugural episode. And I do want to thank the team at podmotion.com for all of their work and helping to put this podcast together. I really appreciate you tuning in. We have lots of other great episodes coming up, so I hope you will subscribe to the podcast and share it with others. For show notes, other valuable information, and to leave me your comments, please go to theanimalguide.com. Also, if you have ideas for future episodes, I welcome them. Until next time, all the best to you and the animals in your life.

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