Written by David DeFranza
Defining intelligence is not easy. Is it an ability for abstract thought? Communication? Reasoning? Problem solving? It’s a troubling concept for humans because we know we have it but we’re not so sure what, exactly it is.
And traditionally, humans have considered their intelligence to be superior to that of the rest of earth’s inhabitants. Animals, it has long been thought, have a degree of intelligence but certainly nothing that could compare to humanity’s proclivity for innovation and emotional understanding.
Recently, however, a series of observations have challenged this idea. Indeed, we humans are finally realizing that several animals—from our cousins the apes down to fish and even some invertebrates—experience deep emotion, develop culture, and utilize tools for problem solving; all things that were once the cornerstones of the human intelligence pedestal.
Any discussion of animal intelligence must begin with apes. There has been extensive and well-documented research that has found evidence of some key elements of high intelligence in ape species including self awareness, emotional understanding, problem solving and reasoning, culture, and language.
Top photo from Chi King via flickr.
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