Wouldn’t it be amazing to really understand how animals think. I am sure they do, but in ways quite different from us humans.
We live next to a provincial park which winds through the south side of Calgary. Often, we are visited by deer, as well as the occasional bobcat, coyote and bear.
Many days, when I look out of the kitchen window, I come face-to-face with a deer staring back at me. Many times, I have wondered how do animals think? In particular, what is this deer thinking as she looks back at me?
Now I have no doubt that some animals think. Dogs think quite well, especially in social settings with people and other dogs. But how about this deer?
I know she has some great senses, particularly hearing and smell. If I make a sound in the kitchen, she perks right up. I know she has instincts, such as flight, which I can demonstrate by walking out on the deck. Although, after a few days of watching me, she seems less concerned. So, perhaps in addition to instinct she can learn that I am not a threat.
The dog next door always barks and wants to play when the deer approach. After a period of time, the deer stopped running away and just stand and stare. No longer afraid. Maybe these deer have learned that the dog next door is different from a coyote.
Animals Think in Many Ways
One of the human limitations is anthropomorphism. That’s our innate tendency to project human traits onto other species, and sometimes inanimate objects.
While some animals like dogs, chimps and dolphins exhibit human-like thought process, most don’t. When we say an elephant displays empathy, or crows and octopus fashion tools, this does not mean application of human-like thinking.
My guess is that most animal brains and nervous systems contain the rudiments that could have developed into something more advanced, but did not. Some animals just live in the moment, but many can learn and display intelligent adaptation. Sadly, some humans seem to have lost this ability.