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Re3: Behavioral Bias



At 0800 hours on Tue, 11 Mar 1997 20:34:37, Stanley Friesen 
<sarima@ix.netcom.com> wrote:  

At 05:30 PM 3/11/97 -0600, Richard L. Dieterle wrote:
>More in the realm of the latter, on TV I have seen a species of 
>Australian  parrot engage in symbolic behavior that was quite
>impressive. 

Are you sure it wasn't the African gray?? That is the parrot species that
has been induced to produce the most spectacular feats of reasoning.

> Even if we could somehow show that it was a subtle form of rote memory, still 
>its behavior presupposed a large quantity of a relatively sophisticated form of
>memory. 

Some of what the African gray can do is pretty hard to lay entirely to
memory.  It requires, at the very least, a fairly sophisticated form of
conceptual discrimination.

But the African gray is considered about the smartest bird alive today, and
is hardly a good analog for any other archosaur. (And parrots in general
are among the most intelligent of birds).

My reply: 

I gladly defer to your expertise on this matter.  

The purpose of my remarks was to advance a <<weak>> thesis: that there is a 
range of intellectually impressive behaviors that will not be reflected in mere 
brain size, and that being so, we cannot conclude without further argument that 
this kind of sophistication is impossible for Dinosaurs.  I don't know whether 
any Dinosaurs could exhibit behavior as sophisticated as that of an African 
Gray, but I also don't know that they could not.  <See, jamolnar@juno.com Re: 
Re2: Behavioral Bias Tue, 11 Mar 1997 20:29:08>.  

I referred to the <<straw man>> explanation that the African Gray might perform 
symbolic behavior -- and I am doubly cautious about describing this as reasoning
-- entirely through rote memory. The reason for considering this possibility is 
that the initial studies of similar behavior among the higher primates were 
attacked along just those lines.  Therefore, in presenting a weak hypothesis, it
is better to advance the very minimum that can be said rather than advocate a 
theory that requires the greatest evidentiary support (and which, prima facie, 
is epistemologically the least likely to be true).  Yet I do agree with you 
completely that it <<is pretty hard to lay [it's behavior] entirely to memory>>.

As a fellow Teuton has implied <Michael Re: Re2: Behavioral Bias Tue, 11 Mar 
1997 21:44:11 -0500>, at the more barbaric end of the archosaur spectrum we find
some forms of elaborate behavior even among the Crocodilians.  I refer in 
particular to the maternal behavior of Australian (got it right this time) 
<<Salties>> which was recently seen on TV's <<Wild Discovery>>.  But, of course,
Salties have about as much in common with African Grays as Nazis do with Swiss 
Bankers, and to frame a spectrum like that neglects the fact that there lies 
outside it the archosaur equivalent to a horde of yodeling Tyrolians who are 
innocent of any form of sophistication.  Yet it cannot be denied (to end on a 
religious note, and I hope you will forgive the mammalian mixed metaphor) that 
every now and then Juno out-foxes <<much-devising Jove>>.  

Richard Dieterle
diete003@gold.tc.umn.edu