If I had a dollar for every, “Hey, humans aren’t that different from other animals, after all” comic I’ve drawn over the years, I’d be able to sustain myself on advances in animal cognition for years. The most recent of such discoveries comes to us from Michael J. Beran and Bonnie M. Perdue of the Georgia State Language Research Center and J. David Smith of the University at Buffalo. They just published research that shows non-human primates may have an analytical ability—once thought unique to humans—called metacognition.
The team used chimpanzees trained in communicating with a series of symbols, and had them perform a series of tasks in which they had to identify what type of food had been hidden. If they guessed correctly, they received the reward. When presented with too little information to guess, the chimps would investigate to try and discern what food was hidden.
This “thinking about thinking”, is a vital problem solving tool, as it allows us to take stock in what we do or do not know, and act accordingly. Instead of acting directly on stimuli (“object” mode), metacognition prompts strategy and information gathering. Most of all, you do it all the time without even realizing it.
Any time you scrutinize your own memory or skills, you’re utilizing this cognitive process. These are the sort of inward-facing thought processes that are crucial for problem solving, and are one of the many components of sapience. Now, some of our closest relatives join the ranks of those that think about thinking, and it is not far-fetched that any animal capable of advanced problem solving and deductive reasoning, could also be utilizing metacognition. Only time and research will tell.
Strip Search Day! Go watch, and after you watch, read the spoiler block below.
SPOILERS!! Pineapple Maki shirts are now available in the swag store in mens, ladies, and different color variants. In the future, stylistic variants like the “spray” version below will also be available for purchase—I just wanted to test it out before putting it up for sale. Proceeds from the shirt sales will be split between the creative team, so buy them in threes!
Special thanks to Graham for reminding us that this episode was coming up, and most of all thanks to NY Comic Con. It will be a pleasure being in you.