The Minds of Animals (Guardian article)

  • Can humans ever understand how animals think?
    The long read: A flood of new research is overturning old assumptions about what animal minds are and aren’t capable of – and changing how we think about our…

    We've spoken a number of times on this forum and the podcast about looking to animals to understand the fundamental importance of pleasure and pain in the lives of all beings. This is a fascinating article about the minds of animals and if we can ever understand them.

    Pertinent to our work here:


    Among humans, the ability to sacrifice immediate pleasure for future gain is called resisting temptation, and is taken as a sign of maturity. But De Waal shows that even birds are capable of it. In one experiment, an African grey parrot named Griffin was taught that if he resisted the urge to eat a serving of cereal, he would be rewarded after an unpredictable interval with food he liked better, such as cashew nuts. The bird was able to hold out 90% of the time, devising ways to distract himself by talking, preening his feathers, or simply throwing the cup of cereal across the room. Such behaviours, De Waal notes, are quite similar to what human children do in the face of temptation.