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Animal Cognition: concept formation

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DarkWaters
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You misunderstood my main point. If conceputalization is inherently the same process wether conceptualization from concretes or from abstractions, then animal don't conceptualize. They may be able to generalize (and it is highly limited) by some other mental mechanism than conceptualization but because they can't do both, what they are doing cannot be conceptualization.

If you can't lift a 175kg weigh, and it is essentially the same process as lifting a box of milk, then you can't lift at all. Some people have a hard time (up to no ability) to understand certain concepts in mathematics. Does that mean that they can't conceptualize?

Ifatart, I regret to inform you that your analogy is flawed. Your response concerns a continuous property of the existent (in your example, the weight of the object being lifted) while KendallJ concerned a discrete property (either we are abstracting from concretes, or we are abstracting from an abstractions). Needless to say, there is no scale of "concrete-ness" where there exists a point where any entity that is less concrete than this point is considered abstract and any entity that is more concrete than this point is considered concrete.

KendallJ, you raised an interesting point. For an organism to have a conceptual faculty, must it demonstrate both the ability to abstract from concretes and the ability to abstract from abstractions? Is it sufficient to conclude that an organism has the ability to conceptualize if it is demonstrated that the organism can only abstract from concretes? Is this resolved anywhere in Objectivist literature? I am unclear on the definition of "having a conceptual faculty." I am operating from the following definition of a concept: A mental integration of two or more units possessing the same distinguishing characteristics, with their particular measurements omitted. It seems more productive to use the former definition but that term should exist to distinguish organisms who meet the latter criteria.

Kendall has resolved the issue that if we define the ability to conceptualize as the former, then there is no reason to conclude that any other species besides man has this ability.

I have a question on the border collie that I mentioned earlier. Even with this dog, who demonstrated some ability to identify an unnamed toy by process of elimination, can we say that this dog (not all dogs) grasps the concept "things have names"? Clearly the act of deducing a process of elimination is not a mental integration of units, but to be able to make such an inference in the first place, this particular dog would have to understand that objects have names, right?

I am still also unclear if certain (non-man) species have the ability to abstract from concretes to form very broad concepts despite not being able to abstract from abstractions.

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If you can't lift a 175kg weigh, and it is essentially the same process as lifting a box of milk, then you can't lift at all.

Some people have a hard time (up to no ability) to understand certain concepts in mathematics. Does that mean that they can't conceptualize?

But ALL humans can form even simple 2nd level concepts. Why the seeming barrier with animals?

Here are several methods of identification (or selectivity):
  1. Having a mental symbol of similar characteristics of a certain group of concretes. Comparing concretes to that symbol as a method of identification.
  2. Having a mental symbol of some shape/color/smell and reacting to that shape/color/smell in the same way whether it is attached to the object at hand or not.
  3. Having an automatic behavior pattern that is triggered by a direct, invasive physical contact between a certain chemical and the organism, like a bacteria that changes the way it swims when a molecule of glucose is physically attached to it's receptors.

A concept is composed of several mental images of characteristics (like shape, smell, and combination of colors) that are related in our mind to the same entity.

The essential difference between the first method and the second is that in the first one, the characteristics, those mental symbols are related to some entity, while in the second they just stand for themselves.

If both of the mental images in 1 and 2 are concepts, why the distinction? Your definition of concepts is yours I take it because it is not Rand's? If not, then you are confused on the term.

If all "mental images" are concepts, then I'd have to agree with you. This wasn't what Rand used as a definition to differentiate the two and she didn't have 2 levels of conceptualization. Using Rand's definition, then #1 would be a concept, because it involves measurement omission. #2 is simply a snapshot or memory of a whole entity. A concept with measurements omitted is a different "mental image" than a snapshot.

Only other option that produces the result of identifying a cat is if the characteristics of a cat would not be attached to that entity, but would be reacted to separately.

An example of an experiment to check this: Record sounds of a cat, and play them as if they are coming from your mouth, and see if the dog will choose to attack you. If not, then the only explanation is that the dog has learned that the shape of a cat and the sound a cat makes has to come together, to actually be the annoying entity that they would rejoice in attacking. This connection between more than one stimuli to the entity that has them, indicates conceptual thinking.

First of all, this is your own personal definition of concept, no? This is NOT what Rand called a concept. Second, no, it could indicate only the ability to form a "snapshot" image that is multifactorial. It doesn't necessarily indicate conceptualization. In fact, faking out animals is abundantly common. That's why one uses a duck decoy when hunting.

Interesting how you think that one thing should be proven, but not the other.

No, proving one is disproving the other. The onus is on both of us. However, Rand's theory integrates better with all of the inductive evidence I have already provided you.

You need to create a separate category for animal conceptualization and Rand doesn't. Rand's razor...

You are confusing method 3 with methods 2 and 1 here. A pheromone creates a physical connection that triggers automatic mechanisms. Light waves by themselves, do not trigger a mechanism of hunting.

No I agree that 2 is different than 3. I just asked the question to suggest that the mechanism you want to ascribe to conceptualization could be a different one since ants do some complex things without it.

OK, let me propose an analogy of what I'm talking about.

#1 is a database. A concept is the empty record for a group of entities, the "form" if you will - shape, size, purpose, usage, etc. Man's mind is able to develop and modify this empty form, and then hold all of the various concretes of this type as just a small compact list of the measurements. Additionally, once he has this concept defined, it can become one of the attributes of another higher level concept. The database can be searched on particular aspects independant of others.

#2 is a collection of snapshots (Photos, JPEG files if you will), with no "form" associated with it. An animal has the capacity to compare the snapshots as whole units, but not as individual aspects. It is able to say in essence. JPEG 1 is similar to JPEG 2 but not abstract away from the actual photo itself. The fact that is uses multiple factors does not indicate conceptualization but is a function of whatever sensory aparatus the animal uses - not the fact that it is conceptualizing (if my camera doesnt take low light JPGS, but still smells in the dark, then the "picture" will be primarily of smells). An animal can learn to associate feelings and behaviors with particular JPEGS (unlike an ant whose response to the JPEG is "hardwired") - [You would say that the comparison mechanism is comparing aspects of the pictures, but my experience says that it's much more simple than that, sort of a "90% is close enough" mechanism. Animals can be easily faked out to misrecognize entities. From that you can learn how its camera works, but not that it is conceptualizing particular aspects.]

OK, now, given 2 brains (CPU's) of similar capacity, one of whom is using operating system #1, and one of whom is using operating system #2, what would I expect to see, inductively in the world?

a. 1 requires much less memory than 2 for the same amount of processing, therefore 2 can outprocess 1by an order of magnitude.

b. 2 to be functional, would require very heavy dependance on the automation of behaviors in order to repond effectively to is world. 1 would have the ability to be more contemplative when confronted with any given problem.

c. (and probably the most important) 2 is reality bound. It cannot process at any level higher than its snapshot comparison mechanism. It is impossible for it to process anything abstract.

Now, evolutionary theory at best would imply that Operating system 1 actually has operating system 2 built into it, and both 1 and 2 have 3 built into them. That is, I have hardwired responses, and the ability to process snapshots. Dogs have hardwired responses, and this seems to be true. Not the other way around.

You would like to define 1 and 2 as a continuum of conceptualization, but the vast divide between man's ability and animals ability seems to be inductive evidence against that. As David said, it is experimental design, designed to really test this difference that will prove the case. Your assertions don't do it.

Edited by KendallJ
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Ifatart, I regret to inform you that your analogy is flawed. Your response concerns a continuous property of the existent (in your example, the weight of the object being lifted) while KendallJ concerned a discrete property (either we are abstracting from concretes, or we are abstracting from an abstractions). Needless to say, there is no scale of "concrete-ness" where there exists a point where any entity that is less concrete than this point is considered abstract and any entity that is more concrete than this point is considered concrete.

Correct, I think Ifat is not using Rand's defintion of a concept properly or else using her own definition.

KendallJ, you raised an interesting point. For an organism to have a conceptual faculty, must it demonstrate both the ability to abstract from concretes and the ability to abstract from abstractions? Is it sufficient to conclude that an organism has the ability to conceptualize if it is demonstrated that the organism can only abstract from concretes? Is this resolved anywhere in Objectivist literature? I am unclear on the definition of "having a conceptual faculty." I am operating from the following definition of a concept: A mental integration of two or more units possessing the same distinguishing characteristics, with their particular measurements omitted. It seems more productive to use the former definition but that term should exist to distinguish organisms who meet the latter criteria.

I believe it is a necessary outfall of concepts according to Rand's definition concept you gave, but I don't recall if Rand spoke to it specifically. Digging into ITOE makes my head hurt sometimes, so I'll look into it. I seem to remember that she did, but best to verify.

I have a question on the border collie that I mentioned earlier. Even with this dog, who demonstrated some ability to identify an unnamed toy by process of elimination, can we say that this dog (not all dogs) grasps the concept "things have names"? Clearly the act of deducing a process of elimination is not a mental integration of units, but to be able to make such an inference in the first place, this particular dog would have to understand that objects have names, right?

Dogs are my favorite topic. I have a counter to this claim. One aspect of animial behavior that is utilized highly in positive reinforment training is that animals when they don't know what to do, will randomly try things in new situations. If I teach a dog 4 behaviors, then present it with a new command, it will many times try the other behaviors that were successful in the past. This is to me more evidence that animals are not conceptual. My dog gets unbelievably stupid even when the new command is some compound of commands he already knows really well. He really acts as if he has never heard the command before in his life. In essence every new command is almost starting from scratch. But sometimes you get lucky and in the process of randomly trying behaviors, he tries one he already knows. This is how you build up complex behaviors.

I could probably teach the process of elimination behavior this way. If a dog knew "Fetch ball" and "Fetch bone", I would present it three items, upon the command "Fetch stuffy", it would probably be totally confused, but might try fetching something (it might also try pawing my hand for all I know). I would then rely on it's natural instinct to try at least fetching something, and then only reward it when it brought back what was not ball or not bone. "Fetch not (Ball and bone)" is a little more complex, but go out and try it with an entirely different situation and you'll find that the concept of "not" doesn't exist anywhere it it head. It is a more complex whole, but still not a concept.

It does not mean that it has to learn that things have names. It associates the sounds I made with a particular behavior. It needs only to be able to distinguish the ball from the bone (which is not conceptual) to be able to separate the behaviors for "fetch ball" and "fetch bone". So, discrimination or identification is not conceptual.

The dog remembers things as whole units. Spend any time training one and you will see it instantly. You use the fact that

a: if it doesn't know it will experiment

b: its identification mechanism allows for "90% right is same thing"

c. it forgets associations rather easily

to be able to create and shape complex behaviors, but once you have shaped a complex behavior it's very clear that it remembers the behavior as a unit, not as a collection of concepts

Names such as Mr. Wiggles are not concepts. Names refer to specific entities, so I would expect that if an animal has the ability to identify entities (which is not conceptual), then it can associate a sound with the entity. For animals this is associating one entity (the sound Mr. Wiggles) with another (the toy Mr. Wiggles). So association is non-conceptual.

When you tell a dog to get a ball, ball being a concept, you are relying on its "90% is good enough" mechanism (and probably giving it all sorts of cues that you don't realize to help it out...). Essentially, you are telling the dog it is ok to be sloppy in identifying the ball, you don't have to work that hard at it, and after a while you can count on the fact that it will have automatized how hard to work at identification when you say get the ball. When you refine a behavior, you are essentially telling the dog, that it is being too sloppy, and only rewarding it when it works hard at identification.

Edited by KendallJ
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  • 1 month later...

Just thought of something about cats, out of observations I have been making recently: Cats are able to know that different human beings belong in the same group, yet they are able to tell the difference between different members of the group.

For them, when they see a new human, it is not an entirely new entity. They expect certain things from the new human they encounter, they expect it to behave like the other humans they knew in the past.

KendallJ has claimed that the knowledge animals have about the new human is only due to him being "close enough" in shape/sound etc' to the other human the animal has gotten familiar with, which means that the animal thinks that "this human is that human".

That explanation is false. It is easy to observe it in any pet that makes a distinction between it's owner and his friends that come visit. If the animal thinks that "this is like that" it would treat the friends the same, but it does not. It recognizes that all of those are from the same group, but this one (the owner) is different. And if an animal is able to tell that the owner is not like the friends, it can also tell the difference between an old lady with a purple dress and a hat, and a huge bald man, yet to expect the same behavior from them*.

It was also suggested that animals act automatically because of chemicals (like ants follow a trail of scent), but it would be a ridiculous explanation in this case of recognizing humans based on sound and vision.

So in conclusion, animals think in concepts, is the only explanation left.

* The fact that animals expect the same behavior from a certain species is what I have observed. Cats are either afraid of humans (all humans), or they are not afraid (of all humans). Once 2-3 humans have fed a cat, the cat will come asking for food from other humans. It learns that those give food, and it CAN tell the differences between different humans.

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Concepts are open-ended. That means that an arbitrary and non-predictive parsing of people into group A vs. group B is no evidence for conceptual cats. Show us the cat that can make a correct prediction.

What does an "open-ended" concept mean? How do predictions have anything to do with concepts?

Please explain and elaborate.

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KendallJ has claimed that the knowledge animals have about the new human is only due to him being "close enough" in shape/sound etc' to the other human the animal has gotten familiar with, which means that the animal thinks that "this human is that human".

That explanation is false. It is easy to observe it in any pet that makes a distinction between it's owner and his friends that come visit. If the animal thinks that "this is like that" it would treat the friends the same, but it does not. It recognizes that all of those are from the same group, but this one (the owner) is different. And if an animal is able to tell that the owner is not like the friends, it can also tell the difference between an old lady with a purple dress and a hat, and a huge bald man, yet to expect the same behavior from them*.

This is just sloppy. How do you know that a "this is like that" comparison mechanism wouldn't allow it to distinguish between people. I can think of all sorts of reasons, one of which is that people smell different. SO in reality, "this is not like that".

A gross comparison mechanism would be able to distinguish one thing from everything else. The real question is can it distinguish one group from another based onsome aspect that has different "measurements" associated with it. For example, can a cat distinguish between blondes and brunettes, regardless of hair length, hair shape, hair smell, etc? I.e. can it distinguish based upon a concept, for all aspects of that concept. Show me something like that. This is abstraction away from measurements.

We've had hundreds of cats through our house, and I've been training my dog for years to do very complex things. Never have I seen any examples of these sorts of abstract behaviors.

Again, discrimination or generalization does not imply conceptualization. Conceptualization is a mechanism with specific attributes, and you should show evidence that these attributes lead to a certain outcome with only one mechanism and not another.

Edited by KendallJ
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What does an "open-ended" concept mean? How do predictions have anything to do with concepts?

Please explain and elaborate.

I won't answer for David, but to me open ended means that you have to show clear abstraction away from measurements, i.e. a true test would be if an animal can recognize a particular example of a concept, but whose measurements are radically different from other groups in that concept. If something really conceptualizes humans, then it should distinguish, babies, dwarves, invalids, amputees, etc. as humans.

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What does an "open-ended" concept mean? How do predictions have anything to do with concepts?

Please explain and elaborate.

A fixed froup of individuals -- Fred, Ethel, Ricky, Lucy -- is not a concept, it is a list. A concept is the mental integration of two or more units sharing a defining characteristic, measurement omitted. With a list, the list is the definition and the measurement. A fully specified list is closed, because there can be no new units that the concept applies to. A concept could be formed from "the people living in Apartment 3-G" because the definition of the concept isn't the same as the concept, thus it could be a concept. A concept is a prediction, in that it tells you in advance of seeing some newly encountered existent whether that existent is or is not subsumed by the concept. So having the ability to memorize a fixed list is no evidence for a conceptual faculty. In other words, what Kendall said.
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This is just sloppy. How do you know that a "this is like that" comparison mechanism wouldn't allow it to distinguish between people.
How can "this is LIKE that" help DISTINGUISH things? This sentence does not make sense. "This is like that" is the opposite of "this is not like that" which is a distinction.

I can think of all sorts of reasons, one of which is that people smell different. SO in reality, "this is not like that".

Drop the smell issue. I am talking about recognition based on sight and sound, because a pet recognizes it's owner from a distance too big for smell to work.

A gross comparison mechanism would be able to distinguish one thing from everything else. The real question is can it distinguish one group from another based on some aspect that has different "measurements" associated with it. For example, can a cat distinguish between blondes and brunettes, regardless of hair length, hair shape, hair smell, etc?
Yes, this is exactly the example I gave (about an old lady with a purple dress and a high bald man): I have seen cats come asking for food from people, even people they have seen for the first time in their life. Those people were dressed differently, with different heights and body shapes. The cats walk over to them, sit next to them, look them in the eye and myaw until they give them food. The people they approach are a group of individuals very different from one another. The group is not a final list, since new people come all the time, and the cats still recognize them as belonging to that same "kind". The "kind" that might give them food.

Then I said, that at this point you would probably suggest the "close enough" mechanism. And then I said that it is not a valid explanation, since cats obviously can distinguish people from one another (based on sight and sound from a distance). So there is no reason to think that they perceive all humans as the same object.

Again, discrimination or generalization does not imply conceptualization. Conceptualization is a mechanism with specific attributes, and you should show evidence that these attributes lead to a certain outcome with only one mechanism and not another.

A concept is a mental identification of a set of two or more existents, which share particular characteristics. Concepts abstract away from the specific properties of concrete examples. Man creates concepts by understanding relationships of similarity and difference observed between existents

I have shown just that.

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A concept is a mental identification of a set of two or more existents, which share particular characteristics. Concepts abstract away from the specific properties of concrete examples. Man creates concepts by understanding relationships of similarity and difference observed between existents
I have shown just that.

Really? Where exactly did you show a certain mental process had occured?. Where did you show that it must have been that mental process and not another? Other than anthropomorphizing the way in which you distinguish between humans onto your cats, you have yet to show in any sort of experiment robust enough to show what the mental process is.

I have a cat that rubs up against all the people she meets. Oh, wait, she rubs up against most couches, lamps, table legs, and even my dog who promptly chases her through the house. What concept is that?

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How can "this is LIKE that" help DISTINGUISH things? This sentence does not make sense. "This is like that" is the opposite of "this is not like that" which is a distinction.

Except in a comparison sort of mechanism there is no false alternative so the two are effectively the same thing, so I simply have used the mechanism as a name in quotations. This is what I see in my animals. You get the behavior if it recognizes it, you don't get the behavior if it doesn't recognize it. "Distinguishing" is a failure to recognize, not conceptualization.

Drop the smell issue. I am talking about recognition based on sight and sound, because a pet recognizes it's owner from a distance too big for smell to work.

a. I said "one of many possible factors".

b. If I open a bag of salami in my kitchen, my dog will come downstairs in about 10-15 seconds to ask for some. smell works faster and at greater distance than you think.

Yes, this is exactly the example I gave (about an old lady with a purple dress and a high bald man): I have seen cats come asking for food from people, even people they have seen for the first time in their life. Those people were dressed differently, with different heights and body shapes. The cats walk over to them, sit next to them, look them in the eye and myaw until they give them food. The people they approach are a group of individuals very different from one another. The group is not a final list, since new people come all the time, and the cats still recognize them as belonging to that same "kind". The "kind" that might give them food.

Again, you need to show that this is the mental process going on. You "still recognize them as belonging to the same 'kind', but does your cat...?" I've already spoken about how this could just as easily be explained as a lower level of accuracy in a "this is like that" mechanism. I believe I used a fetching example with my dog.

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Really? Where exactly did you show a certain mental process had occured?. Where did you show that it must have been that mental process and not another? Other than anthropomorphizing the way in which you distinguish between humans onto your cats, you have yet to show in any sort of experiment robust enough to show what the mental process is.

I have a cat that rubs up against all the people she meets. Oh, wait, she rubs up against most couches, lamps, table legs, and even my dog who promptly chases her through the house. What concept is that?

Your cat is putting her smell/mark on those items people. She is, essentially, claiming them as hers. However, MY cat comes out for me, my parents, and a select handful of other friends, but will not come out for new people or people she doesn't like. She knows we're all humans (based on similar smell, shape, auditory tones), but selects us differently (i.e. She prefers to be around my wife more than me). You can't apply the actions of your cat to all cats. Each animal has an individual nature. Your cat is probably very friendly towards EVERYTHING, just like some people. My cat is a bit more apprehensive of things, just like certain people.

Out of curiousity, to the person who stated it, how is identifying between objects NOT a concept?

And what is the difference between humans learning from conditioned responses (which we all do) and animals learning from conditioned responses?

Edited by Styles2112
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Really? Where exactly did you show a certain mental process had occured?. Where did you show that it must have been that mental process and not another?
Yes, Really.

I have showed an example in which an animal is capable of identifying objects according to class, and yet is able to distinguish the difference of units in that class. I have showed that this is not memorization, nor is it an accident, nor is it a final group of people that the animal could have learned to ask for food from by chance.

I showed it all in my example of cats' behavior: Cats in my university ask food from people by approaching them, staring them in the eye and myawing for food. It is very clear that it is a purposeful behavior, and not random. Once they spot a human from a distance, they run toward them. They do exhibit the ability to classify objects according to class. Now comes the turn of explanations. Since we rule magic out of possible explanations, and since the list of explanations is final, and since I have eliminated the explanation you provided ("close enough" principle), the only explanation left is that the concretes are sorted according to some abstraction or the shape and sound of "humans".

As for proving: if nobody trained the animal to act in a certain way with those people, either it is a coincidence that it acts like that every time, with every new person (a rather amazing one), or you would have to provide another explanation.

Perhaps we have a difference of opinions about what constitutes a proof: For me, if Newton's law worked yesterday, and today, it will work tomorrow under the same conditions. Those experiments are proofs of validity. But if you think that I should somehow magically allow you to see the word through the animal's eyes, and then and only then will it be a proof, well I'm sorry, but it can't be done. So what kind of proof do you seek?

I have a cat that rubs up against all the people she meets. Oh, wait, she rubs up against most couches, lamps, table legs, and even my dog who promptly chases her through the house. What concept is that?
No concept, and also not a fact which is relevant for anything.

"Distinguishing" is a failure to recognize, not conceptualization.

So every time your dog recognizes you and choses you over a stranger it is simply because he failed to recognize you as the same object (the "close enough mechanism")?

Again, you need to show that this is the mental process going on. You "still recognize them as belonging to the same 'kind', but does your cat...?" I've already spoken about how this could just as easily be explained as a lower level of accuracy in a "this is like that" mechanism. I believe I used a fetching example with my dog.

I provided an example in which "this is just like that" is obviously not the explanation for the ability to classify. How about giving some alternative explanation to the cats in my example?

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Your cat is putting her smell/mark on those items people. She is, essentially, claiming them as hers. However, MY cat comes out for me, my parents, and a select handful of other friends, but will not come out for new people or people she doesn't like. She knows we're all humans (based on similar smell, shape, auditory tones), but selects us differently (i.e. She prefers to be around my wife more than me). You can't apply the actions of your cat to all cats. Each animal has an individual nature. Your cat is probably very friendly towards EVERYTHING, just like some people. My cat is a bit more apprehensive of things, just like certain people.

Agreed, tell that to the person who generalized in the first place (Ifatart) based off of the behavior of her cats. I am just refuting a generalization with an example to contradicts it. I just need to supply a possilbe mechanism OTHER than conceptualization to refute, which you have done nicely. Thanks :worry:

Out of curiousity, to the person who stated it, how is identifying between objects NOT a concept?

Discrimination does not necessarily imply conceptualization. PLease check above to an earlier post where I describe conceptualization (Objectivist view) as a database vs a simple comparison mechanism. Simply measuring something (i.e. appearance, smell, etc) and comparing it to remembered measurements is not conceptualization. I.e. the mental process is: "My mother smells like X" (remembered). "This entity smells like X" (measurement). "This entity is my mother".

And what is the difference between humans learning from conditioned responses (which we all do) and animals learning from conditioned responses?

Nothing, humans have that faculty as well; however, this does not imply that humans are conceptualizing when they use conditioned response mechanisms. Again see same previous post.

Your cat is putting her smell/mark on those items people. She is, essentially, claiming them as hers. However, MY cat comes out for me, my parents, and a select handful of other friends, but will not come out for new people or people she doesn't like. She knows we're all humans (based on similar smell, shape, auditory tones), but selects us differently (i.e. She prefers to be around my wife more than me). You can't apply the actions of your cat to all cats. Each animal has an individual nature. Your cat is probably very friendly towards EVERYTHING, just like some people. My cat is a bit more apprehensive of things, just like certain people.

Out of curiousity, to the person who stated it, how is identifying between objects NOT a concept?

And what is the difference between humans learning from conditioned responses (which we all do) and animals learning from conditioned responses?

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Agreed, tell that to the person who generalized in the first place (Ifatart) based off of the behavior of her cats. I am just refuting a generalization with an example to contradicts it. I just need to supply a possible mechanism OTHER than conceptualization to refute, which you have done nicely. Thanks :worry:

You must be kidding me. Is this all you can give? That example has nothing to do with anything in this topic (other than showing that cats are capable of distinguishing). The fact that cats have some behaviors that clearly do not include any concepts, does not show that they are incapable of conceptual thinking.

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Kendall said: Agreed, tell that to the person who generalized in the first place (Ifatart) based off of the behavior of her cats. I am just refuting a generalization with an example to contradicts it. I just need to supply a possible mechanism OTHER than conceptualization to refute, which you have done nicely. Thanks :worry:

You must be kidding me. Is this all you can give? That example has nothing to do with anything in this topic (other than showing that cats are capable of distinguishing). The fact that cats have some behaviors that clearly do not include any concepts, does not show that they are incapable of conceptual thinking.

But they certainly call into question someone making the arbitrary claim that certain behaviors are examples of conceptual behavior.

Look the basic fact is, you claim that my identification mechanism cannot be the mechanism here, and I previously gave you an explanation of how just such a mechansim could easily explain such behavior. You just ignored it. You're the one who wants to keep asserting the positive, conceptual behavior on the part of animals. Prove it. "Conceptualization is the only possible exaplanation left" is hardly a proof.

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As for proving: if nobody trained the animal to act in a certain way with those people, either it is a coincidence that it acts like that every time, with every new person (a rather amazing one), or you would have to provide another explanation.

Perhaps we have a difference of opinions about what constitutes a proof: For me, if Newton's law worked yesterday, and today, it will work tomorrow under the same conditions. Those experiments are proofs of validity. But if you think that I should somehow magically allow you to see the word through the animal's eyes, and then and only then will it be a proof, well I'm sorry, but it can't be done. So what kind of proof do you seek?

That's exaclty what I am expecting you to show. Relying on behaviors that cat's learn as a result of demonstrably existent instincts (like seeking food, which is about the most fundamental instinct an animal has) confuses the issue because it is encumbent upon you to distinguish what is a result of instinct, conceptualizaiton, and identificaiton mechanisms, very difficult to do.

Ultimately, if you posit a conceptual mechanism you would have to develop a controlled experiment that is meant specifically to test for the differences/similarities in mental mechanism from others and see if they exist. I gave you a mechanism already and discussed how such a mechanism would lead to generalizaitions of this type, and I gave you evidence that would point to differences in mechanism. You just ignored my argument.

If Newton's law of gravity works today, it explains a multitude of aspects of the issue besides lets say gravitational attraction (tides, planetary orbits, etc.) i.e. it integrates with everything else we know. Anti-conceptual mechanisms explain much more than just the behavior you want to point at. It also explains why animals don't have language, it explains specific learning differences in Humans and animals. Conceptual behavior in animals can't explain this stuff, i.e. it doesn't integrate. Given that, I think there is more evidence for non-conceptual behavior.

So every time your dog recognizes you and choses you over a stranger it is simply because he failed to recognize you as the same object (the "close enough mechanism")?

No, he fails to recognize the stranger as me. It is the same process with two different outcomes that gives rise to "distinguishing" behaviors. He measures the stranger. He measures me. My measurements match the remembered measurements for me much better than the strangers.

I provided an example in which "this is just like that" is obviously not the explanation for the ability to classify. How about giving some alternative explanation to the cats in my example?

I gave the counter to this way before you came up with the example. Generalizaiton as a form of "sloppy identification". I don't intend to do it again, if you didn't read it the first time, before you decided to dredge this thread up again.

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OK, let me propose an analogy of what I'm talking about.

#1 is a database. A concept is the empty record for a group of entities, the "form" if you will - shape, size, purpose, usage, etc. Man's mind is able to develop and modify this empty form, and then hold all of the various concretes of this type as just a small compact list of the measurements. Additionally, once he has this concept defined, it can become one of the attributes of another higher level concept. The database can be searched on particular aspects independant of others.

I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at here. Are saying (an example) that if I see a human lacking arms that I will recognise it as a human (despite being "different" from the form of a normal human) and an animal will not? I'm not sure I understand what the Abstracts are in this case. An animal can tell the difference between a Human and (say) a lion. They can also tell the difference between individual humans. My dog knows my hand as well as knowing my whole "picture." He understands that the hand belongs to me. What am I missing here?

#2 is a collection of snapshots (Photos, JPEG files if you will), with no "form" associated with it. An animal has the capacity to compare the snapshots as whole units, but not as individual aspects. It is able to say in essence. JPEG 1 is similar to JPEG 2 but not abstract away from the actual photo itself. The fact that is uses multiple factors does not indicate conceptualization but is a function of whatever sensory aparatus the animal uses - not the fact that it is conceptualizing (if my camera doesnt take low light JPGS, but still smells in the dark, then the "picture" will be primarily of smells). An animal can learn to associate feelings and behaviors with particular JPEGS (unlike an ant whose response to the JPEG is "hardwired") - [You would say that the comparison mechanism is comparing aspects of the pictures, but my experience says that it's much more simple than that, sort of a "90% is close enough" mechanism. Animals can be easily faked out to misrecognize entities. From that you can learn how its camera works, but not that it is conceptualizing particular aspects.]

Again, how is this different from a database? Our eyes (and their eyes) all take pictures (which is a good analogy by the way). I would think that the only difference might be the how many we take versus them, and our processor speed. I don't think that that takes away from their ability to, on a basic level (through their nature) conceptualize.

OK, now, given 2 brains (CPU's) of similar capacity, one of whom is using operating system #1, and one of whom is using operating system #2, what would I expect to see, inductively in the world?

a. 1 requires much less memory than 2 for the same amount of processing, therefore 2 can outprocess 1by an order of magnitude.

b. 2 to be functional, would require very heavy dependance on the automation of behaviors in order to repond effectively to is world. 1 would have the ability to be more contemplative when confronted with any given problem.

c. (and probably the most important) 2 is reality bound. It cannot process at any level higher than its snapshot comparison mechanism. It is impossible for it to process anything abstract.

Again, I'm not going to argue that we CLEARLY have better conceptualizing abilities, but our brains are larger and have evolved FOR that function. All databases are still built upon the files we put in them. I don't see a difference there between us and them (other than database size and speed.)

Again, what am I missing here?

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No, he fails to recognize the stranger as me. It is the same process with two different outcomes that gives rise to "distinguishing" behaviors. He measures the stranger. He measures me. My measurements match the remembered measurements for me much better than the strangers.

Since you've made the statement here, I'd like to take the time to ask. What proof do you have that this is what's happening over any other alternative? Or are we just barking (hahahahahahaha) at a tree with no true proof for either side? You seem to think (based on this statement) that there is a process of elimination (what I might call a negative reaction), as opposed to recognition (what I'd call a positive reaction). What brings you to this conclusion over any other conclusion?

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That's exaclty what I am expecting you to show. Relying on behaviors that cat's learn as a result of demonstrably existent instincts (like seeking food, which is about the most fundamental instinct an animal has) confuses the issue because it is encumbent upon you to distinguish what is a result of instinct, conceptualizaiton, and identificaiton mechanisms, very difficult to do.

Ultimately, if you posit a conceptual mechanism you would have to develop a controlled experiment that is meant specifically to test for the differences/similarities in mental mechanism from others and see if they exist. I gave you a mechanism already and discussed how such a mechanism would lead to generalizaitions of this type, and I gave you evidence that would point to differences in mechanism. You just ignored my argument.

As an aside, I think the greatest piece of argument for generalization by "sloppy identification" vs. "conceptualization" is the contextual nature of the identifications. Concepts are portable outside the context that they were learned in. Remove the original mechanism with which an animal leanred it's behavior, and it will "forget" its supposed concept. If your cats really know humans as a concept, remove the feeding, and find some other way for them to indicate their knowledge of the concept. Let me know when you've found it. My dog chases all sorts of balls, but he can't distinguish a ball from a stuffy in a different context. If he knew it as a concept it would be portable.

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Since you've made the statement here, I'd like to take the time to ask. What proof do you have that this is what's happening over any other alternative? Or are we just barking (hahahahahahaha) at a tree with no true proof for either side? You seem to think (based on this statement) that there is a process of elimination (what I might call a negative reaction), as opposed to recognition (what I'd call a positive reaction). What brings you to this conclusion over any other conclusion?

No, I'm not contrasting the two mechanisms. They are different outcomes of a similar mechanism.

My only evidence is the way in which animals generalize and learn. It is highly contextual, and to the extent that it is more general, it is more brittle. This is very different from contextual or human learning.

As a child grasps concepts they are quicly able to compound concept upon concept and generalize to broader concepts. Their broader concepts are many times very robust (i.e. they can quickly identify the general class of persons and sub classes of them).

This is my fundamental claim for the difference in conceptualization, that the mechanism of first concept formation is idential to the mechanism of 3rd 4th 5th, etc concepts so once a person understand how htis work they quickly build multi level concepts. Animals never go beyond level 1 sorts of generalizations so this would imply that the mechanism is not conceptualizaiton. If they could conceptualize, they'd be talking to us by now.

My dog and I are trying to learn Aframe contacts. The dog has to come down an a frame and touch a yellow patch at the base of it. I started with a board, one end painted yellow, lying on the ground. Taught him to walk across it and lie down at the end. Got to the point where he could do this reliably over and over. I rotated the board 90deg (so it was lying east /west instead of north/south). Same board, same desired action. Dog had no clue. There is not one wit of conceptualization going on there. He doesn't understand "yellow", "end", "board", nothing. It was like teaching him all over again. This is true of most learned behaviors. "Sit" on the deck, is not the same as "Sit" in the living room, etc.

Working with taught behaviors is much different than just observing. Animals are capable of very complex behaviors but to assume that this is the result of some deep conceptualization is flawed. This is imminently obvious when you start trying to train them.

My trainer has studied this in depth and laughs every time someone tries to raise the issue again. Work with animals for any period of time and it's pretty clear. As David Odden has said as well, most of hte experimental evidence is for non-conceptualizing, and those that claim to be can be debated on their experimental design. I have not doubt that it is a very difficult subject.

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