Animals Are Capable of Abstract Thought

And, in the case of apes, using touchscreens apparently

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted May 18, 2014 7:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – We humans have some pretty big britches when it comes to our intellectual prowess, thinking our high-falutin' language gives us the unique ability to grasp abstract concepts and make connections. But research increasingly shows that animals can do the same, Scientific American reports. In a remarkable experiment last fall, researchers gave gorillas and orangutans touchscreens, presented them with a picture of an animal, and then showed them pictures of two other animals—one that shared some characteristic with the first, and another that didn't.

The primates proved relatively adept at matching the pairs, even when the connection between them was fairly abstract—for example, they could correctly match turtles to snakes, suggesting they'd figured out what reptiles are. And the apes aren't alone; another recent study demonstrated that dogs can identify other dogs, even if they are of vastly different breeds, by sight alone, and other researchers have shown that bears, pigeons, and chimpanzees have similar skills.

  (Shutterstock)
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