Measuring and Comparing Animal intelligence

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Measuring and Comparing Animal intelligence

Postby mitchellmckain on January 6th, 2018, 7:31 pm 

I have been doing more research in this area today.

It is a complex problem because some abilities seem to scale with brain size and other things do not. Along with size there are other important variables, such as neuron density and cerebral surface area (increased by convolutions on the surface).

Previously I was aware of the encephalization quotient which has become standard dogma and compares actual brain mass with the mass expected for body size.
human 7.6, best dolphins 4.2*, orca 3.3, chimp 2.4, elephant 2.3, whale 1.8, dog 1.2, mouse 0.5
* Other calculations put the best of dolphins at 5.3
It should also be noted that there is considerable variation between species with regards to both EQ and actual brain size. Some species of dolphins have an EQ as low as 1.55 and while the Tucuxi (Amazonian dolphin) has the highest EQ of 4.56, its brain is actually half the size of the human brain. Also the EQ of elephant species varies quite a bit.

Then I was made aware of the fact that cetaceans required a larger brain just to keep breathing 24 hours/day, requiring the halves of their brain to sleep in turns. This might seem to reduce the result above by half for cetaceans. However, my research today suggest that halving would be overdoing it because so many other measures put these cetaceans higher on the list than this would suggest. I had also learned that the complex communication of cetaceans largely played the role of a GPS enabling herds to keep together. But this another area where my research on the topic today has modified my understanding somewhat.

The main thing I learned today is that the encephalization quotient is far from the complete picture. There are many other factors which would put other animals ahead of humans. Birds have the highest ratio of brain to body mass -- though they have no neocortex at all. Anyway, some abilities such as self-control seems to scale with actual brain size. Elephants have the greatest volume of cortex of all land animals and more folds and convolutions for a greater surface area also. When we account for density, counting actual neurons, we still find that elephants still have 300 billion neurons compared to the 100 billion average for humans.The elephants also have a larger and more developed hippocampus (linked to emotion and spatial memory) than either human or dolphin.

Some dolphins have 40% more cerebral cortex and the same degree of cerebral specialization as humans. These dolphins have a parietal lobe which is as big as the human parietal and frontal lobes put together, and the temporal lobe is also equal in size and development with the human one. Also the cerebral layering found in humans is also found in these cetaceans. One difference with the cetaceans, however, is a major shift in the portion of the brain devoted to senses and motor coordination respectively. While for the cetaceans the sensory portion dominates, in humans and primates it is the motor coordination portion that dominates.

It is still unknown whether any of the cetaceans have anything like human language. But one thing which has become clear is that a lot of the complexity of their communication has to do with an ability to communicate complete sonar images with each other. Remember this is their primary sensory data so it would be very much like humans with the ability to send visual images to each other. This seriously makes me wonder if this ability alone can account for most of the advanced cetacean brain development.

My conclusion is that instead of looking at intelligence as a single measure we really need to be looking at a whole palette of different abilities which our brains give us. It is also possible that what we think of as human intelligence is something which arises from an interaction between lots of different brain functions.
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Re: Measuring and Comparing Animal intelligence

Postby Braininvat on January 7th, 2018, 12:48 am 

I know corvids and parrots have tighter packed neurons than non-avian species, a "miniaturization" that confers more intelligence than would be found in other animals with similar cranial volumes. Ravens and African Grey parrots display astonishing intelligence (including tool use and collegial problem solving) for birds.
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Re: Measuring and Comparing Animal intelligence

Postby wolfhnd on January 7th, 2018, 3:11 am 

I think consciousness not intelligence is the interesting question. Intelligence in humans is a collective or if you want cultural thing. How intelligent would a human raised from birth in isolation appear to be? What evidence there is suggests, (which is very little mostly gleaned from feral childern), the brain does not develop normally in the absence of language. Some people have even suggested a connection between language and consciousness.

The problem of course is that you have to define what you mean by language. Animals dependent on instincts to a large degree seem to have built in language and most complex animals are social to one degree or another. I would certainly think that the color displays of squid for example qualify as language. Consciousness itself seems more a function of sophistication than intelligence. For many people it comes down to is it a matter of degree or kind.
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Re: Measuring and Comparing Animal intelligence

Postby Serpent on January 7th, 2018, 11:07 am 

wolfhnd » January 7th, 2018, 2:11 am wrote:I think consciousness not intelligence is the interesting question. Intelligence in humans is a collective or if you want cultural thing. How intelligent would a human raised from birth in isolation appear to be? What evidence there is suggests, (which is very little mostly gleaned from feral childern), the brain does not develop normally in the absence of language. Some people have even suggested a connection between language and consciousness.

You don't need feral children: there are plenty of institutionalized children to study, from Romanian orphanages to residential schools for native kids in Canada, to homeless children in South America to refugees in camps everywhere. Children deprived of affection and social interaction become effectively stupid.
That's not a reflection on their brain size or potential at birth; it's all about development. Those neural pathways, connections, networks and selection processes that take place in early childhood determine the measurable IQ in later life. So, too, with birds, land animals and marine creatures. Social species are smarter than solitary ones; the long-lived species with a relatively protracted 'childhood' (close contact with parents and clan, wherein adults tech the young life-skills) have a higher measurable IQ, overall, even without the big brain/body mass ratio.

Of course, there is always the problem of how humans measure the IQ of other species. What criteria, methods and metrics we use always influence the results, and sometimes they're very skewed indeed. But I do believe those methods are improving lately.

I wouldn't take any reference to consciousness into accounts, because people have some ... varied... notions of what constitutes consciousness. If there is no consensus of definition, there sure won't be on threshold and units of measurement.
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Re: Measuring and Comparing Animal intelligence

Postby mitchellmckain on January 7th, 2018, 2:26 pm 

wolfhnd » January 7th, 2018, 2:11 am wrote:I think consciousness not intelligence is the interesting question. Intelligence in humans is a collective or if you want cultural thing. How intelligent would a human raised from birth in isolation appear to be? What evidence there is suggests, (which is very little mostly gleaned from feral childern), the brain does not develop normally in the absence of language.

There is also considerable speculation that language has been a significant factor in the evolution of a few human characteristics such as intelligence. I read that the human breathing system adapted for language leaves us open to a number of health hazards and is thus otherwise counter to the survival imperative that governs evolution.

wolfhnd » January 7th, 2018, 2:11 am wrote:The problem of course is that you have to define what you mean by language. Animals dependent on instincts to a large degree seem to have built in language and most complex animals are social to one degree or another. I would certainly think that the color displays of squid for example qualify as language. Consciousness itself seems more a function of sophistication than intelligence. For many people it comes down to is it a matter of degree or kind.

Yes, I think consciousness is a universal property of all life -- highly quantitative along with life itself. Self awareness and awareness of the the environment is required by the very process of life and thus I would consider a measure of consciousness to be a measure of life also.

wolfhnd » January 7th, 2018, 2:11 am wrote:Some people have even suggested a connection between language and consciousness.

For me this connects up with the fact that I consider mentality to be another form of life altogether - meme life rather than gene life which has its very substance in language. Thus I see language bringing human consciousness and life to a whole new level of awareness, with a greatly increased "evolutionary" time scale because meme life allows for the easy inheritance of acquired characteristics.


P.S. I reflect that in the course of this response, I have with the person I am responding to somewhat left the area of verified scientific fact and wandered over into that of philosophical discourse.
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Re: Measuring and Comparing Animal intelligence

Postby zetreque on January 7th, 2018, 2:41 pm 

I can't wait until we finally open up a thorough dialog with other species. This area of researched is linked to communicating across species. The different brain traits, brain abilities and configurations or purposes.

Until somewhat recently humans think of communicating to other species in human terms but I hope that is changing. It's kinda like humans becoming aware of "invisible" features of the world like EM radiation, gasses, ecology, higgs bosons, time lapses, geological time. These features of the universe are outside of regular human abilities without technology.

A cross-species translator would be amazing and I'm sure it would take into account the different brain features an configurations of the species.

I see most humans are being pretty unintelligent considering what they are doing to the planet despite all they have achieved. A small few have giving us some wonderful technology adapted by the masses leading them to feel powerful. As already sort of pointed out, intelligence can vary inter-species too and there are many metrics to measure intelligence. Speed, memory, awareness.
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Re: Measuring and Comparing Animal intelligence

Postby Serpent on January 7th, 2018, 3:55 pm 

Until somewhat recently humans think of communicating to other species in human terms

Generally, i think this will continue to be the norm. What never ceases to amaze me is how adept cats and dogs - and even relatively stupid horses - are at communicating with humans on human terms; far more than we are at adapting to their modes of communications (even aside from the obvious physical limitations of no tail and poor hearing and small).
Subject peoples learn Latin or English; Romans and Britons do not learn Frankish and Hindi...
That's not a matter of intelligence; it's a power relationship.
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Re: Measuring and Comparing Animal intelligence

Postby wolfhnd on January 7th, 2018, 4:12 pm 

Intelligence is going to become a philosophical question as much as consciousness. You can of course just define intelligence carefully in ways that can be more or less measured objectively. That will end up being as unsatisfactory as the various definitions of freewill. It is about the reasons as well as the what. When Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett famously got in an argument over freewill it was not the scientific evidence that was in question.

The reason I'm focused on consciousness can be illustrated as follows. Is a sleep walking human engaged in intelligent behavior? It is the unsolved philosophical question of the zombie. Normally I would dismiss the question as irrelevant to scientific research but any comparison between human intelligence and other animals has to deal with the fact that it is difficult to tell a high level computer AI conversation from a conversation with a person.

I tend to lean towards consciousness being a property of life answer myself but most people are going to reject that as some sort of panpsychism.
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Re: Measuring and Comparing Animal intelligence

Postby Serpent on January 7th, 2018, 5:39 pm 

I tend to lean towards consciousness being a property of life answer myself but most people are going to reject that as some sort of panpsychism.

If it's any use to you, I completely agree. I don't necessarily rule out the possibility of machine consciousness, but consider it highly improbable. For now, let's restrict it to life, but not to a single end-twig of the evolutionary tree; let's leave the probablys and maybes open to further study.

Comparing the intelligence of other species to humans is a largely futile exercise, since there are so many possible ways to assess emotional intelligence, potential intelligence, adaptive intelligence, problem-solving intelligence; so many senses and responses to the environment and relationships to other individuals that improve the the odds of survival ... not including rocket science and rap music.
As a scientific endeavour, it's interesting, and may even result in a little more respect toward our fellow denizens of the planet.
As a philosophical question? Well, as we have seen, those tend to generate speculation, discussion, opinion, conviction, dogma and huge piles of literature - but no resolution.
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Re: Measuring and Comparing Animal intelligence

Postby mitchellmckain on January 7th, 2018, 5:43 pm 

Braininvat » January 6th, 2018, 11:48 pm wrote:I know corvids and parrots have tighter packed neurons than non-avian species, a "miniaturization" that confers more intelligence than would be found in other animals with similar cranial volumes. Ravens and African Grey parrots display astonishing intelligence (including tool use and collegial problem solving) for birds.


Notice that and EQ has not (and rarely is) applied to birds. The EQ measure is generally considered inapplicable to non-mammalian species. Their brain structures and organizations are just too different for easy comparison.
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Re: Measuring and Comparing Animal intelligence

Postby zetreque on January 7th, 2018, 6:09 pm 

Serpent » Sun Jan 07, 2018 1:39 pm wrote:Comparing the intelligence of other species to humans is a largely futile exercise, since there are so many possible ways to assess emotional intelligence, potential intelligence, adaptive intelligence, problem-solving intelligence; so many senses and responses to the environment and relationships to other individuals that improve the the odds of survival ... not including rocket science and rap music.
As a scientific endeavour, it's interesting, and may even result in a little more respect toward our fellow denizens of the planet.


I think a valuable metric would be assessing what I call awareness rather than consciousness. At least on a human species level. But one can't be assessed without another. You need memory and memory access to be aware of you surroundings. Humans are still very unaware of the world around them and part of that is being able to simultaneously hold thought in all the areas they should be aware.
Like aware of other people, their feelings, their motivations, being aware of other species, being aware of how the other species and other people contribute to the world, being aware of time scales past present and future, being aware of multiple perspectives for trouble shooting or problem solving, being aware of systems level thinking and then how systems related to other systems.
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Re: Measuring and Comparing Animal intelligence

Postby wolfhnd on January 7th, 2018, 6:57 pm 

This seems like an important question but I'm not sure why.

The logical assumption is humans are animals, humans are intelligent, therefore animals are intelligent. It should be approached from the perspective of disproving the intelligence of other animals not the way it has been conventionally. Even my favorite philosopher, Daniel Dennett, takes a very dim view of animal intelligence. I just don't see how you get a difference in kind out of things so similar.
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Re: Measuring and Comparing Animal intelligence

Postby Serpent on January 7th, 2018, 8:49 pm 

zetreque » January 7th, 2018, 5:09 pm wrote:I think a valuable metric would be assessing what I call awareness rather than consciousness. At least on a human species level.

I don't see how either one, or both together, can be measured objectively.
You need memory and memory access to be aware of you surroundings.

Where does that leave amnesiacs and patients with brain tumours? Do they not know whether it's hot or cold; up from down; noise from silence?
I honestly don't see why awareness requires the recall of previous awareness, because in that case, it could never begin.
Humans are still very unaware of the world around them and part of that is being able to simultaneously hold thought in all the areas they should be aware.

You can't do that all the time; it would be too tiring, and trying to figure out what thoughts you "should" simultaneously hold in any given situation would be too distracting.
Then, too, there is that problem of limited senses. We're equipped to perceive a certain range of stimuli, be aware of some aspects of our environments, and totally unable to access any aspects of reality beyond that range. Mechanical instruments have extended the range, but only quite recently, and I'm not sure how to classify such indirect access: does knowing about what we cannot sense count as awareness of those ultra violet waves or magnetic lines we can't see or feel?

Like aware of other people, their feelings, their motivations, being aware of other species, being aware of how the other species and other people contribute to the world, being aware of time scales past present and future, being aware of multiple perspectives for trouble shooting or problem solving, being aware of systems level thinking and then how systems related to other systems.

I'm not sure you can even measure those different kinds of awareness in one species - there is so much variation, and such a scale of difference from one type of awareness to another. Is a sociopath, who can't empathize with other living things, thus rendered unaware of his spatial or temporal surroundings or the value his society places on money or unable to make plans? Is a rich industrialist unable to find his way back if you throw him out of a car in a poor neighbourhood?

I think we were very badly handicapped in this field of research by Abrahamic religions. The idea of special creation (our own specialness being a notion humans are apt to sign onto without asking very many questions) put up a set of presumptions and mental blocks between humans and the animal kingdom of which we are part that we are only now, slowly and reluctantly, overcoming.
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