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Author Topic: Animal Intelligence  (Read 384 times)

Ian Absentia

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Animal Intelligence
« on: February 22, 2010, 12:13:32 AM »
This is for all of you hunters, trackers, lion tamers, and wild animal trainers out there.  And, of course, you RPG-playing armchair enthusiasts, too.

What are the parameters of the intelligence and skills of a wild animal?  One would assume that most qualities would be instinctive, but what others might be learned through social contact, too?  How does an animal fight?  How does it track or be aware that it is being stalked?

!i!

Aos

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Animal Intelligence
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2010, 12:22:17 AM »
Chimps (and some monkeys at least) have some behavior that is considered cultural- that is learned behavior that is passed down from generation to generation and differs from group to group. A good example of this is the so called "termite fishing" that chimps of the Gombi forest engage in. They strip a small branch of all it's leaves and dip it into a termite mound and it's covered with termites when they bring it out. This is an example of non human tool use btw, and Jane Goodall's discovery of this pretty much killed the popular "man the tool maker" meme that was popular in Anthropology/archaeology at the time. This behavior is limited to the Gombi Forest chimps, but other groups have other behaviors unique to them (like particular ways they crack nuts, or funky grooming behavior).
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Silverlion

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Animal Intelligence
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2010, 08:42:23 AM »
Quite a lot of higher animal behavior despite the concept of 'instinct' is learned.


IN my limited understanding most mammals learn from parents, most fish do not. IT is not to say that fish can't recognize triggers to events. A fish hooked by a fisherman may learn to be a bit more wary, for if it doesn't it becomes food. Mammal parents with the longer gestation times, and usually long care cycled are based on learning. However, not ALL work that way.



The nature vs nurture concept is a heavily debated topic though. So your mileage will vary.

Most animals fight for survival, iit is in many ways not going to be a pretty fight no matter who is on a given end. Of course usually any fights are one sided with a focus on the predator. Prey species tend to survive by numbers and speed, not combat ability. Of course a lot depends on the animal, its environment, and its exposure to various things. Raccons for example are smart little animals for a scavenger, except of course a shiny thing can capture them cold--they simply DO not give up, even to the detriment of their own lives most of the time. Probably tied to its food at one time (shiny-fish.)

If you need something more specific, you'd probably have to research the specific animal. All the broad brush things one can say don't often apply when you get down to a specific species. Example: Birds are pretty lacking in learned behavior sets. Yet parrots and close relatives actually have been proven to be able to learn human taught behaviors, and actually make some conceptual leaps. Many dismiss this as just more reward response behaviors, yet being able to generally reach as far as they do is a pretty big leap even if it is tied to reward behavior.


Personal observation: Dogs can be smarter than we think. My dog learned early on that the bowl which food was put into wasn't just a spot on the ground to eat, but an actual container. She first demonstrated this behavior by bringing the bowl to the dinner table and setting it on the tabletop waiting for her portion. She was never shown this, never taught or given a reward for doing this--in fact it was discouraged.

Even stranger still, when the bowl wasn't good enough she would bring a toy, a bone, some other object after leaving the bowl on the table and give it to the person she thought most likely to give her food. She'd drop it in their lap and then poke her nose in the bowl to see if her 'treat' had bartered her some food. Now she's quite strange, and sometimes not all that bright, but she has the ability to make pretty substantial connections between A and B for a dog. (I've owned many dogs over my lifetime, and she's the first to try and barter for food, try and open a door by the door knob, and so on.)
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Abyssal Maw

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Animal Intelligence
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2010, 08:59:08 AM »
This is a guy I know talking about crows.

http://www.ted.com/talks/joshua_klein_on_the_intelligence_of_crows.html

Wait until he gets to the part where the crow builds a tool. It's pretty good. When you get to the point of 3:08 he's showing a crow that is trying to get a tiny bucket of food out of a tube with a piece of wire. By 3:48 the crow takes the wire and bends it into a hook to remove the bucket.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2010, 09:02:26 AM by Abyssal Maw »
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Ian Absentia

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Animal Intelligence
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2010, 12:07:08 PM »
Okay, very good.  Now, let's narrow the focus a little more.

In a face-to-face, and presumably hostile, encounter between a human and a wild animal (choose your favorite -- either your favorite animal or your favorite human), how do the reactions differ between the two?  What advantage, physical or mental, does one have over the other?  What disadvantages?

To hone the focus a little further, imagine that the wild animal is your player character.  What advantages and disadvantages would you hope or expect to see on your character sheet?

!i!

(P.S. I really like the bit on crows.  They're a personal favorite of mine.  Not only smart, but very social animals.)

Silverlion

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Animal Intelligence
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2010, 04:33:26 PM »
Depends on the animal. Most are stronger pound for pound than we are, because we've relied on tools a bit too long instead of raw power.  Natural weapons, better senses in some manner. A few animals will have enhanced (compared to us) movement.

So many differences. I mean a mouse can squeeze through holes SMALLER than it's mass would allow if it were a human with a humans bone structure. A bear can't do that either but is strong and full of teeth and claws. A dog with weighting around 70lbs (child sized) can take of your fingers with its teeth, a child is unlikely to have the mouth pressure for that.

A chimp is stronger for its weight than a comparatively sized human. I'm just sticking to mammals here.  We don't want to talk about trunks, tusks, bone and muscle differences, poisons (platypi, non-placental mammal) and so on. Most animals don't have tool use--a few do, its all so very specific to the animal in question.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2010, 04:35:55 PM by Silverlion »
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Ian Absentia

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Animal Intelligence
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2010, 05:41:54 PM »
Quote from: Silverlion;362142
Depends on the animal. Most are stronger pound for pound than we are, because we've relied on tools a bit too long instead of raw power.
Okay, this is really driving at the heart of my inquiry, and maybe I should narrow the focus even further.

On one hand you have a man who is a human, on the other you have a man who is an animal.  Not some crazy-ass werewolf or man-ape hybrid, but an animal that is shaped like a man.  Assuming such a dichotomy could exist, what are the differences between the two?  The product of civilisation on one hand, and the product of bestial breeding on the other.  Which chips lie on which side of the divide between human and animal, basic morphological parameters being otherwise equal?

!i!

Silverlion

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Animal Intelligence
« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2010, 08:01:43 PM »
Quote from: Ian Absentia;362152
Okay, this is really driving at the heart of my inquiry, and maybe I should narrow the focus even further.

On one hand you have a man who is a human, on the other you have a man who is an animal.  Not some crazy-ass werewolf or man-ape hybrid, but an animal that is shaped like a man.  Assuming such a dichotomy could exist, what are the differences between the two?  The product of civilisation on one hand, and the product of bestial breeding on the other.  Which chips lie on which side of the divide between human and animal, basic morphological parameters being otherwise equal?

!i!




So basically the "Lord of the Flies" kinda of way? I suspect that a creature with the morphology of human but with a more primitive life, will have slight advantages on strength and endurance. Slight edge on senses. (A theory adds "ADHD" on the side of the primitive hunter, but not a primitive farmer. I don't know if that be an advantage except vs surprise for the ADHD person.)



A primitive person my be stronger but may lack training in certain useful abilities.

Example: I might beat a savage by using my admittedly limited Taekwondo, I'm merely a brown belt (4th dan), but I know how to do a few specific things like escapes, throws, etc. I know normal TKD doesn't teach that, but my teacher is a believer in teaching "What works", and has stolen from aikijitsu, wrestling, and other places. I also know ways to inflict controls of a person through some limited joint control. Now I said I might--the other hand someone biting me in the face and clawing me with nails used for digging in the dirt is also possible to completely impair me because of how I think to come into a fight, and unpredictability is always a problem with "rigid" martial skills.

A lot of it comes down to "Which person, and what do they know"

A modern person may panic more readily, despite our movies showing primative people afraid of fire and thunder, etc. We may know how to communicate better--passing details to someone else if there were several of us, but we might not USE that.

In general the nature vs nurture concept which this boils down to when you get 'exact same morphology, different background..' is a concept that has been debated in the scientific community for a great number of years. The best idea is to simply decide what you want for your game model and go with that.
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Hairfoot

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Animal Intelligence
« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2010, 01:34:37 AM »
Quote from: Ian Absentia;362152
On one hand you have a man who is a human, on the other you have a man who is an animal.  Not some crazy-ass werewolf or man-ape hybrid, but an animal that is shaped like a man.  Assuming such a dichotomy could exist, what are the differences between the two?  The product of civilisation on one hand, and the product of bestial breeding on the other.  Which chips lie on which side of the divide between human and animal, basic morphological parameters being otherwise equal?


Are they in a fight?  Trying to cohabitate?  It's still a broad question.

In general terms, I think the answer is domestication.  The human has been naturally selected for co-operative behaviour, which includes reduced aggression and instincts of empathy.  The wild creature is far less developed in those areas, but is probably more independently powerful, with strong senses and physical development.

The wild creature is more likely to act out of instinct than consideration, but that instinct is likely to be more reliable than the civilised creature's.

Ian Absentia

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Animal Intelligence
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2010, 12:26:20 PM »
Quote from: Hairfoot;362237
Are they in a fight?  Trying to cohabitate?  It's still a broad question.
Let's assume a toe-to-toe competition.  Even then. that's too broad -- each creature is going to choose a strategy that suits its own strengths and would probably walk away from a toe-to-toe encounter.  A fight then?

I think the points of reliance on tool use and domestication drive to the heart of the matter.  In a remotely related matter, I've read that archaeological evidence shows that while the development of agriculture and stationary settlement was ultimately a boon for humans as a whole species, it was decidedly bad for individual quality of life.  People lived shorter and less healthy lives, but more of them survived long enough to procreate.  One hand giveth, the other hand taketh away.

So, two focused questions:

1) What happens when Man the Human and Man the Animal face off against one another? What tools, talents, strategies, and shortcomings do each bring to the showdown?
2) Can a man reconcile both the Human and the Animal natures within one body?  Can they compliment each other, or do they negate out of necessity?

!i!