Animal Senses Herman, Pack Term Paper

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[. . .] In short, the dolphin turned out to be smart enough to assess new situations instantly and use whatever skills/abilities it needed to obtain correct information and further, to use its prior training to let the researcher know its answer. Still, the question must be asked: Is there a point to this experiment? Will knowing how a dolphin 'sees' objects bring us any closer to an understanding of dolphins that is usable for human purposes? Or was this pure science?

Perhaps a continuation of the experiment could involve the dolphin -- and one assumes it would have to be the same dolphin -- performing some actual task that used its combined visual and echolocation abilities. Still, the dolphin experiment seems to have merit because the dolphin has already proven its usefulness in certain Naval experiments, and in myth and lore, and it would be helpful to ascertain whether the dolphin's abilities hold up under the stress of human direction for human purposes.

The canine experiment was ludicrous. Dogs are and have been for centuries helpers for humans, if only as companions in some cases. To attempt to find out whether the dog is responding to a particular set of sounds, the entire word, the setting of the word, the environment in which the word is used, or the voice of a known or unknown person giving the command seems to be the most completely meritless investigation of the three studied here. In fact, dogs are virtually always commanded by a human who either knows the dog, or is in an emotional condition in relation to the dog, for example, if a stranger tells a dog to come so that it won't be hit by a car. Thus, experimenting in the absence of the ordinary and normal environment of the dog seems completely useless. This seems like weird science, for perhaps no more reason than to obtain grant money and spend it. It is doubtful that the lives of dogs or humans was enhanced by the experiment, and the only logical sequel to it would be no sequel at all.

The gerbil/spiny mice study was only marginally more useful than the canine experiment. Whether a mouse or gerbil uses his vision or his sense of touch, or both (or neither) in climbing down from a platform is difficult to explain as either a psychology or physiology investigation. Even the researcher noted that his results were probably relatively meaningless in view of the fact that gerbils, who live mainly underground, would have precious little need for the skills he was testing. In that respect, it might be concluded that gerbils succeeding at all is noteworthy.

The researcher himself admitted that it is difficult to make "valid generalizations about he behavior of theses species in their natural habitats on the basis of experiments that present the animals with artificial tasks." (Greenberg 1986 83). He suggest that a subsequent experiment be conducted in the natural habitat, keeping "behavioral repertoires" in mind (Greenberg 1986 83). If one were to design a further experiment, then that would seem the best avenue to explore; the problem is, of course, that it would probably eliminate the gerbils from the experiment, as they do live primarily underground and are not presented naturally with the need to climb down from platforms.

Two of these three experiments are consistent: the gerbil/mice and dog experiments are superfluous, telling us very little about either the lives of the animals in question or anything germane to human life. Two of the experiments are similar in methodology; the gerbil/mice and dolphin experiments both pose artificial tests, although at least the dolphin experiment promises some small shred of useful dolphin knowledge might be developed. Of the three, the only one that seems at all worthy of continuation, expansion or development into other investigations is the dolphin experiment although, at the very least, similar tests would need to be conducted with a number of other 'domestic' dolphins and, preferably, with a control group of wild dolphins as well.

References

Fukuzawa, M.D.S. Mills and J.J. Cooper. (2005) Brief Communication: The effect of human command phonetic characteristics on auditory cognition in dogs (Canis familiaris). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 119(3), 117-130.

Greenberg, G. (1986) Depth perception in Mongolian gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus) and Spiny Mice (Comys russatus and A. cahirinus). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 100(1), 81-84.

Herman, L.M., A.A. Pack and M. Hoffmann-Kuhnt. (1998) Seeing through sound: Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) perceive the spatial structure of objects through… [END OF PREVIEW]

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