2008-02-18 21:29:54 UTC
Washington, Feb 18: A new study at Harvard University has shed light on
the key differences in human and animal cognition.
Marc Hauser, professor of psychology, biological anthropology, and
organismic and evolutionary biology in Harvards Faculty of Arts and
Sciences proposed four key differences in human and animal cognition.
Animals share many of the building blocks that comprise human thought,
but paradoxically, there is a great cognitive gap between humans and
animals, said Hauser.
By looking at key differences in cognitive abilities, we find the
elements of human cognition that are uniquely human. The challenge is to
identify which systems animals and human share, which are unique, and
how these systems interact and interface with one another, he added.
The four novel components are the ability to combine and recombine
different types of information and knowledge in order to gain new
understanding; to apply the same rule or solution to one problem to a
different and new situation; to create and easily understand symbolic
representations of computation and sensory input; and to detach modes of
thought from raw sensory and perceptual input.
Hauser said that animals have laser beam intelligence, in which a
specific solution is used to solve a specific problem. But these
solutions cannot be applied to new situations or to solve different
kinds of problem.
On the other hand, humans have floodlight cognition that permits them
to use thought processes in innovative ways and apply the solution of
one problem to another situation.
For human beings, these key cognitive abilities may have opened up
other avenues of evolution that other animals have not exploited, and
this evolution of the brain is the foundation upon which cultural
evolution has been built, said Hauser.
The new work was presented at the annual meeting of the American
Association for the Advancement of Science. (ANI)