Agents

The Thoughtful Animal

Category archives for Agents

You’ve probably had a conversation that goes something like this: Person A: “My dog is sooooo amazing!” You: “I mean, dogs are awesome and all, but what’s so amazing about this particular dog?” Person A: “He just understands me. It’s like he knows what I’m thinking and what I need.” You: “Do you think he’s…

In honor of Science Online, which begins on Thursday night, I will be writing about lemurs this week. Why lemurs? Because on Friday morning, as a part of Science Online, I will be taking a tour of the Duke Lemur Center. It is common among animals – especially primates – to orient their gaze preferentially…

Have you ever been at a party with lots of people chatting away, when for some unexplainable reason you felt compelled to turn and look at the front door of your friend’s house…and just as you were looking, someone was just coming in from outside and closing the door? You couldn’t have heard the door…

Robot Lizard Push-ups

Have you ever been walking through the forest and thought to yourself, “Damn, its loud here…it’s really, really hard to hear anything anybody else is saying”? Well, maybe that’s what prompted Terry J. Ord and Judy A. Stamps, respectively from Harvard and UC Davis to investigate lizard exercise routines. You ask: What do lizard calisthenics…

In 1975, Edward Tronick and colleagues first presented the “still face experiment” to colleagues at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development. He described a phenomenon in which an infant, after three minutes of “interaction” with a non-responsive expressionless mother, “rapidly sobers and grows wary. He makes repeated attempts to get…

Morality and convention are so mired in culture that it may seem near impossible to determine the extent to which biology and environment give rise to it. And yet it is possible to investigate the evolutionary origins of morality. Research with infants – especially pre-verbal infants – who have not yet been sufficiently exposed to…

Cooperation and conflict are both a part of human society. While a good deal of the academic literature addresses the evolutionary origins of conflict, in recent years there has been an increased focus on the investigation of the evolutionary origins of cooperative behavior. One component of cooperative behavior that might be present in other animals…

Quandaries such as those involving stealing a drug to save a spouse’s life or whether or not to have an abortion have historically dominated the study of the development of moral thinking. The predominant research programs in psychology today use dilemmas in which one choice is deontologically correct (it is wrong to rotate a lever…

In general, the ability to attribute attention to others seems important: it allows an animal to notice the presence of other individuals (whether conspecifics, prey, or predators) as well as important locations or events by following the body orientation or eyegaze of others. We’ve spent a lot of time here at The Thoughtful Animal thinking…