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Animals take turns when communicating? Who would have imagined that?

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hooded crows conversing on the ice/abiwarner, Fotolia

From ScienceDaily:

An international team of academics undertook a large-scale review of research into turn-taking behaviour in animal communication, analysing hundreds of animal studies.

Turn-taking, the orderly exchange of communicative signals, is a hallmark of human conversation and has been shown to be largely universal across human cultures.

The review, a collaboration between the Universities of York and Sheffield, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands, reveals that this most human of abilities is actually remarkably widespread across the animal kingdom.

While research on turn-taking behaviour is abundant, beginning more than 50 years ago with studies of the vocal interactions of birds, the literature is currently fragmented, making rigorous cross-species comparisons impossible.

Researchers who study turn-taking behaviours in songbirds, for example, speak of “duets” whereas those who study some species of monkeys note their “antiphonal calls.”

One of the most noteworthy aspects of turn-taking behaviour across all species, humans included, is its fine timing. Paper. (public access) – Simone Pika, Ray Wilkinson, Kobin H. Kendrick, Sonja C. Vernes. Taking turns: bridging the gap between human and animal communication. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2018; 285 (1880): 20180598 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2018.0598 More.

Of course, taking turns is the basis of communication because it enables feedback. Not taking turns is display rather than communication.

This research belongs to a specific genre which attempts to demonstrate that humans are not special by finding something that various life forms do that is the same or similar to what humans do, without addressing the intellectual chasm between the two. It plays well in the pop science media because it isn’t socially appropriate in those venues to ask critical thinking questions. Anyway, human consciousness is supposed to be an illusion.

Questions: What exactly is the “intelligence” being measured? And why is animal intelligence not more closely tied to the animals’ presumed evolutionary history? Also, why is the bar set where it (really and truly) is, at genuine abstract thought and the language that expresses it?

Hat tip: Ken Francis

See also: Not only that but … pigeons understand probabilities! In short, the pigeon does not do any abstract thinking and therefore works only with remembered outcomes. This is one of those circumstances where greater intelligence can be a handicap.

… And bees understand the concept of zero too! If life forms needed to understand abstract thought, they probably wouldn’t be able to feed themselves. They must attend to practical matters or die. So why these impositions on the public except for a desire to move the dilemmas round human consciousness off the table by pretending that uniquely human intelligence is some kind of universal? One wonders whether panpsychism (everything is conscious) will continue to make converts in science for the same reason.

Smart crows don’t show strong evidence of social learning


Does intelligence depend on a specific type of brain?

I know my cats take turns telling me they want food and they won't "no" for an answer. Seversky
It's funny because Mommy wants attention from Hazel just as much as Hazel wants attention from Mommy. lol Andrew asauber
In short, the pigeon does not do any abstract thinking and therefore works only with remembered outcomes.
So at my house, Mommy has spoiled Hazel the cat with evening cat treats. The routine is Hazel will watch a rerun of The Office with us, and as soon as its over and the TV gets turned off, she usually starts mewling because its bedtime and that's when the treats get dispensed. Andrew asauber

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