Home_____Bird Brains & Theory of Mind
Humans are exceptional beings, so we like to think. The so-called lower animals lack complex syntax for language. They simply are not as conscious. Many philosophers believe only humans understand that others have their own personal thoughts, which philosophers term as having a theory of mind, without which we would lack our empathy and deception. So goes the point of view. Theory of mind has implications that reach far into our notions about consciousness. For one, experiments suggest that the degree of consciousness has no clear correlation to matter, brain size in this case.
Biologists are wary of exclusionary assertions for human beings. We are not, apparently, the only species with a theory of mind. Biologists have found it in various mammals, ranging from gorillas to goats. Two recent studies suggest that theory of mind can extend beyond mammals to birds. Consider a recent article in the Proceedings of The Royal Society, in which Bernd Heinrich and Thomas Bugnyar, University of Vermont, Burlington, describe experiments conducted on ravens. As birds, ravens are known to be clever and sociable, and for this reason, the scientists set out to find how the ravens would respond to human gaze. More