PSYA02H3 Lecture Notes - Border Collie, Frontal Lobe, Surface Roughness
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PSYA02 Jan. 9, 2013
Language tends to mean words, something that is exclusively human. However, it is
used for communication – something that most animals do. However, human language
is special because it allows for ‘complex mind sharing’ – allows the transport of
knowledge and ideas across time and space (this means learning does not have to be
by one person then re-learned and re-learned: it can be passed on).
Three things are key to human domination of the planet
(a) our bi-pedalism, freeing up our hands
(b) our frontal cortex which figures out useful ways to use our hands
(c) language … the ability to transmit all this across generations
Animals, like dogs, have receptive language: this means they have learned a
constrained set of objects
Example: Chaser the Border collie, who has learned words that she will respond
o However, it is unclear whether she actually knows what the words mean
(language) or is it just a form of operant conditioning?
Scientists believe that, in order for an organism to be considered to be ‘using language’,
the organisms must use language in a flexible way. This means using words as symbols
of abstract and complex ideas. Abstract symbol system.
Words can have different meanings based on where they are used, how they are
placed in a sentence/phrase, qualifiers etc.
Deep structure: the actual meaning of the word
Surface structure: how the meaning is being shown
Language, Consciousness, Learning
Animals generally learn after numerous learning trials. However, in the case of a deer
who has had her baby eaten, she learns to avoid the circumstances of that incident after
just one occurrence. This may be caused by the fact that the deer replays this tragic act
over and over in her mind, acting as a sort of multiple learning experience as provided
by her consciousness. The deer can actually use a type of language (signals, body
movements etc.) to warn other deer of the circumstances that led to the death of her
baby. The other deer then have their own learning experiences as they play it over and
over in their minds.