An Introduction to Comparative Psychology

Chapter 14: Do Animals Perceive Relations?

C. Lloyd Morgan

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WHEN I take a walk across the downs with Tony, a fox-terrier pup, I carry with me a stick; for it is his delight to race after it and bound back with it in his mouth. The other day I took with me -a heavy-knobbed stick, a Kaffir knob-kerrie. At first he seized this by the middle ; but to carry it thus was an awkward, lop-sided, unbalanced operation, and by the close of the afternoon he had profited by an hour or two of experience, and seized the stick -near the knob end. Now such a proceeding can be completely explained in terms of sense-experience. The process was throughout one of trial and error; gradually he found the most comfortable way of carrying that stick, and adopted it. Incidentally he was solving in a practical way a problem in mechanics; he was finding the centre of gravity of the stick. Incidentally, too, he gave me an opportunity of perceiving that the centre of gravity had certain space relations. It lay within about seven inches of the knob-end of the stick. But is there any reason to suppose that Tony perceived this relationship in even a rudimentary and indefinite way ? I could see none. Through sense-experience he became aware in a practical way of how best to deal with the stick. There is no necessity for the adequate explanation of all that I observed to suppose that the pup perceived the relations as such ; the relations at most may be regarded as implicit in practical performance, by certain activities, not as explicit in focal perception. If therefore the canon we have already laid down is to be-adopted,

(242) namely, that in no case is an animal activity to be interpreted as the outcome of a higher psychical faculty, if it can be fairly interpreted as the outcome of one which stands lower in the psychological scale, -- if I say, this canon is to be adopted, then we are bound to interpret the action of the, dog as performed through sense-experience alone. And it will conduce to clearness if I here distinctly state that in sense-experience and in intelligent adaptation to circumstances, there is no perception of relations. This absence of perception, is part of the connotation of these terms as I employ them in this work. That is to say, if the dog does perceive relations, then he displays something more than sense-experience and intelligence.

But is not the distinction, on which so much stress is here laid, after all a somewhat trivial one ? What does it all come to but the distinction between, on the one hand, the marginal awareness of certain transitions in consciousness, and, on the other hand, the focal and clear-cut perceptions of the same transitions ? Obviously, I myself think the distinction an important one, or I should not lay such stress upon it. But, of course, if my critic sees no distinction worth the drawing between an undefined marginal awareness and a well-defined focal idea; no distinction worth the drawing between passing on in consciousness from impression to impression and reflectively directing the attention to the nature of the transitions between them; no distinction worth the drawing between the naive reception of a sequence of experiences and the beginnings of introspection, there is an end of the matter between us. We must agree to differ. It appears to me that the distinction between marginal Clements implicit in experience and focal ideas explicit to consciousness is a real one ; that the distinction between merely sensing a transition and focussing the attention upon it is a valid one and that the distinction between naive experience and introspection which involves reflection, is not a matter of mere

(243) psychological hairsplitting. And of this I am convinced, that if once the transition from sense-experience to reflective introspection be admitted as one not beyond the possibilities of natural development, the comparative psychologist may rest assured that the natural genesis, through process of evolution, of mind in all its phases up to the, very highest, is an hypothesis the validity of which can no longer be seriously questioned. If once the perception of relations and the beginnings of retrospection be granted as possible by natural process of mental development, the key of the evolutionist position is won.

To return to the experiment with the fox-terrier pop and the knob-stick, I repeat that, so far as I am able to judge, all that I observed was capable of interpretation on the hypothesis that the dog was guided in its actions by intelligence, profiting by the associations established in sense-experience. And now I would ask, Of what practical service would it be to the fox-terrier pup to make the relations focal in perception? I am unable to see that it would be of any practical service or advantage to him as a fox-terrier; and being of no practical service or advantage to him, I am unable to see what grounds we have for supposing that this faculty has been developed in him or in his race. And where, it may be asked, is the practical service and advantage of the perception of relations to primitive man, whose rude needs and free wild life may have been in early times but little different from those of the brutes around him ? I reply that the perception of relations is a necessary factor in the evolution of descriptive intercommunication. It is a sheer impossibility to describe, not merely to indicate by gesture or by practical demonstration, but to describe, where to seize the knob-kerrie, so that it may be comfortably balanced, without perceiving or rendering focal the space-relations. I would ask the reader to try to do so; for his inevitable failure will aid him in understanding what I mean.

(244) When I said just now that the perception of relations, as such, would be of no service or advantage to the fox-terrier pup, I assumed that among dogs, and animals generally, the power of descriptive intercommunication has not been evolved. That they have some powers of indicative communication, both by gesture and by the emission of sounds, is not likely to be called in question by any one who has observed animals ; but I am not satisfied that there is any sufficient evidence that animals have powers of descriptive intercommunication. Let us briefly consider the powers that they unquestionably have, and contrast them with the powers the possession of which by animals is doubtful.

I have already briefly described the sounds emitted by young chicks, and stated my opinion of their suggestive value. They afford a good example of one type of indicative intercommunication. They are indicative of emotional states. This type of intercommunication is of wide prevalence and of great importance in the animal world. The song of birds is an elaborated example of such intercommunication. It is indicative of certain emotional states, and I think unquestionably suggestive of answering emotions. And among birds in which class we have this elaborated example of intercommunication through sour~ds, we have also an elaborated example, in love-antics and display of plumage, of similar indicative communication by gesture. There ran be little doubt that the dog, both by sound and gesture, -- the tail being a most important organ of communication , -is able to indicate the nature -of his emotional states. And such powers of indicative communication are doubtless to many animals of marked service and advantage in the state of nature. I will quote an example, which appears to me a pertinent one, from a pamphlet by Mr H. B. Medlicott :-" In the early dawn of a grey morning,'' be says, " I was geologising along the base of the, Muhair Hills in South Behar, when all of a sudden there was a

(245) stampede of many pigs from the fringe of the jungle, with porcine shrieks of sauve-qui-peut significance. After a short run in the open they took to the jungle again, and in a few minutes there was another uproar, but different in sound and in action; there was a rush, presumably of the fighting members, to the spot where the row began, and after some seconds a large leopard sprang from the midst of the scuffle. In a few bounds he was in the open, and stood looking back, licking his chaps. The pigs did not break cover, but continued on their way. They were returning to their lair after a night's feeding in the plain, several families having combined for mutual protection ; while the beasts of prey were evidently waiting for the occasion. I was alone, and though armed, I did not care to beat up the ground to see if in either case a kill had been effected. The numerous herd covered a considerable space, and the scrub was thick. The prompt concerted action must in each case have been started by the special cry. I imagine that the first assailant was a tiger, and the case was at once known to be hopeless, the cry prompting instant flight, while in the second case the cry was for defence. It can scarcely be doubted that in the first case each adult pig had a vision of a tiger, and in the -second of a leopard or some minor foe."[1]

This interpretation leads us on to the second type of indicative intercommunication, -- namely, where in addition to, and perhaps eventually apart from, the suggestion of an emotional state, there is an indication of a particular impression or idea which gives rise to the emotional state. There can be little doubt, I think, that the first stage of indicative communication is purely emotional, and that on this is grafted the indication of particular objects. If,- for example, in the vast majority' of cases the cry which prompts instant

(246) flight among the pigs is called forth by a tiger, it is reason able to suppose that this cry would become indicative, as Mr Medlicott suggests, of the vision of that particular animal. But if the second cry, for defence, was prompted sometimes by a leopard and sometimes by some other minor foe, then this cry might be suggestive of a vision of any one of these, of a succession of visions, or might remain of purely emotional import, Whether the dog barks in different tones to indicate " cat " or "rat," as the case may be, it is difficult to say. But it is possible that lie may do so'. In any case there can be no question that the dog and other animals respond differentially to different indicative words as addressed to them by us, and therefore presumably have different particular ideas suggested through association with the different sounds.

The investigation of the question, how far, in their intercommunication with each other, separate sounds are suggestive of particular ideas, is one in which experiment, with the aid of the phonograph, in menageries, or in the experimental stations which may some day be established for the accurate study of zoological psychology, may be expected to throw light. Mr R. L. Garner has done pioneer work in this subject by his study of the sounds emitted by monkeys. His conclusions are by no means definite, and his work[2] contains much hasty and immature generalisation. Of the nine sounds made by capuchins, not one is, so far as the observations go, indubitably indicative of a particular object of desire. All of them may be, and would seem to be, in the emotional stage, and expressive of satisfaction, discontent, alarm, apprehension, and so forth. Still they may be indicative of particular objects of appetence or aversion; and experiments with the phonograph, conducted with due care and under test-conditions, may do much to throw light upon an interesting and important problem.


Concluding so far, then, that animals have powers of indicative communication, which is primarily suggestive of emotional states, and secondarily (and probably only incipiently) suggestive of particular objects, we may now pass on to consider the kind of evidence there is for the possession by animals of powers of descriptive intercommunication. There are a good many cases on record of dogs or cats that have been cured, or treated kindly, subsequently returning with a sick or sorry companion. Such a case occurred at the Bristol Infirmary a few years ago. Many a time have I seen Toby, who was always on the alert, invite the fatter and lazier Ginger to accompany him on a desirable worry. In this connection I may perhaps be allowed to reproduce a case I have given in a previous work.[3] It was communicated to me by my friend, Mr Robert Hall Warren, of Bristol. " My grandfather," he says, "a merchant of this city, had two dogs, one a small one and another larger, who, being fierce, rejoiced in the appropriate name of Boxer. On one of his business journeys into Cornwall he took the smaller dog with him, and for some reason left it at an inn in Devonshire, promising to call for it on his return from Cornwall. When-he did so, the landlord apologised for the absence of the dog, and said that, some time after my grandfather left, the little dog fought with the landlord's dog, and came off much the worse for the fight. He then disappeared, and some time afterwards returned with another and larger dog, who set upon his enemy, and, I think, killed him. Then the two dogs walked off, and were no more seen. From the description given, my grandfather had no doubt that the larger dog was Boxer; and, on returning home, found that the little dog had conic back, and that both dogs had gone away, and, after a time, had returned home, where he found them."

Such cases 'as these may be interpreted as involving

(248) descriptive intercommunication. It is assumed that the one dog described in some rudimentary fashion to the other what had taken place, or what he had seen, or what he bad suffered. We are not at present considering the intelligence, or more than intelligence displayed; we are only looking at the communication as such. And I think it is clear that in none of these cases need there have been more than what I have termed indicative communication. There need not have been any descriptive communication at all. At the instance of certain suggestive signs or actions the one dog follows the other. That is all that is necessary to account for the facts. In accordance with our canon of interpretation, therefore, we are bound to assume no more without further warrant. If, when a little dog had been bullied by a cur, it ran to its big friend; if, after the latter bad been induced to follow him, the little dog were removed, and then the big dog went and thrashed the cur (following the lines of a well-known experiment of Sir John Lubbock's, with ants) - that would afford strong presumptive evidence of descriptive communication. In this, as in so many other cases, what we need is experimental investigation. At present, however, there is not, so far as I am aware, any definite evidence that animals possess powers of descriptive intercommunication involving the perception of relations.

Of the stages by which indicative communication passed into descriptive communication we are ignorant. But for this passage it was necessary that in addition to sounds or other signs symbolic of impressions, there should be sounds or other signs symbolic of relations. And this step which would thus lead to descriptive communication Would also lead to knowledge, which implies and is dependent on the perception of relations.

In a suggestive pamphlet on "The Evolution of Mind in Man," Mr H. B. Medlicott, accepting the teaching of those -who contend that knowledge consists of relations, sees

(249) clearly that the utterance of sounds with relational import was essential as a preliminary step to the development of knowledge. " Relations," He says,[4] "are immaterial ultraphysical; the senses cannot touch them directly, and so no sensation of them can be recorded. it, the brain; and hence, As we have seen to be admitted, no knowledge, in the proper of which relations are the secret, could appear. This sense is the function performed by language, to supply a material notation whereby the brain can take hold of the unseen world of relations, and so convert experience) as unconsciously recorded in mere consciousness," into knowledge; the brute into introducing mind into the organism, changing man. This is the upward step we were in search of, and it is wholly within the range of natural evolution."

If, as I gather to be the fact, Mr Medlicott regards these relations as something wholly new to consciousness, we must look upon his view as incomplete. It assumes that it is possible for " language to supply a material notation," for what, so far as consciousness is concerned, has as yet n existence. The relations must be-already there, implicit in before they can become explicit through sense-experience, the instrumentality of a sound or -sign by which they may be indicated. But if, as I have endeavoured to show, the raw materials of relations be scattered up and down throughout the whole range of sense-experience, then the step that was effected when relation was first perceived was the rendering focal and clear to consciousness of what was hitherto only marginal and subconscious. And ill this contention it is clear that I am not opposing the view to which Mr Medlicott has given expression; I only seek to complete it.

Let me illustrate. A dog has before it two similar objects, one nearer, the other farther. Now the state of conscious-

(250) ness he has when he looks at the farther object differs from the state of consciousness he has when he looks at the nearer object; for he reacts differently according as he springs.. at one or the other; and unless he is an unconscious automaton, the difference in reaction is the index of a difference in the states of consciousness preceding the reaction. But he does not make this difference, which he merely senses in sense-experience, focal as a perception of the relation in space which we term distance. Or if he does, he thereby goes a stage beyond sense-experience. The difference is, however, something really present in sense-experience, and is the subconscious determinant of the exact nature of the reaction. In the absence of such elements in sense-experience, the observed phenomena of the perfecting of skill in animals are inexplicable. And the step we are now considering, the step from sense-experience to the perception of relations, is the making focal in perception of this difference as such, which has hitherto been only a subconscious determinant of action in the practical life of sense-experience. The relation itself is not something wholly new to conscious experience; it is only newly perceived as a relation.

To the question-- Where would be the advantage of perceiving relations as such, since practical sense-experience suffices for all- the needs of existence of many highly organised animals ? I again reply that such perception, in association with signs or sounds indicative of the relations so perceived, would render possible descriptive intercommunication, the immense advantage of which among animals living together in a community cannot for one moment be doubted. And if it be admitted that the raw materials of the relation to be perceived are -present subconsciously in sense-experience, I join with Mr Medlicott in contending that the eventual bringing them to the focus, and extending the process of indication by signs from

(251) impressions to these new focal elements in consciousness, "is wholly within the range of natural evolution."

From what has been said it will be seen that I am disposed to regard descriptive intercommunication as closely bound up with the initial stages of the perception of relations; and I should regard the possession of powers of such descriptive intercommunication in any group of organisms as conclusive evidence that they were able to perceive relations as such. I do not think that such evidence is at present forthcoming with respect to any animals. But it may well be asked whether this is the only evidence that would be convincing. May not relations be perceived by some of the higher animals, and not yet utilised in this way, through the affixing to them of sounds significant of the relations so perceived ? I think it not impossible that they may; and though the evidence of the fact may be difficult to obtain, that is certainly no valid reason for discontinuing the investigation. I am, however, firmly convinced that in this investigation the results of careful experiments are of more value than chance observations, perhaps unwittingly touched up into anecdotes. And I would here earnestly request those who are interested in zoological psychology, not to rest content with merely recording an observation of animal intelligence, but, if possible to make it the basis of such experiments as may help to reveal its true psychological nature. Again and again I receive communications of, or see recorded in books or newspapers, instances of animal activity, which afford admirable points of departure for experimental investigation, and for endeavouring to induce the animal to exemplify the intelligent or other activity under slightly varying circumstances. It is also essential, so far as possible, to watch all the stages of the evolution of any clever trick,; for in many cases it is quite impossible to get at the true psychological import of a complex and nicely adapted activity, unless we know something of its embryonic stages.


One of the relations among objects which animals are sometimes supposed to perceive is the numerical relation. Animals are supposed to count, Lichtenberg is reported by Thompson[5] to have found that a tame nightingale could reckon up to three. He daily gave the bird three meal worms, after which it expected no more, and this not from satiety, for if he enticed it by a fourth, it at once jumped down to receive it. I feel quite convinced that sense-experience was sufficient to enable the bird which had constantly received three worms, to be aware when his daily allowance had already been given him. As has already been said, it is quite possible to sense fairly large numbers, both of objects simultaneously presented (illuminated by the-electric spark) and of sounds successively presented. A group of five objects forms a different impression from that produced by a group of four objects or of six objects and these different impressions can be distinguished in sense-experience. We must not be misled by the fact that we call them tour, five, or six, and thus use words which- imply that we have perceived numerical relationship. Sense-experience is too, I think, amply sufficient for the explanation of -the sagacity of the suspicious rook described. by Leroy. If the rook saw a man with a gun. go into a hut, she kept away from her nest. "To deceive this suspicious bird, the plan was hit upon of sending two men into the watch-house, one of whom passed on while the other remained; but the crow counted and kept her distance. The next day three went, and again she perceived that only two returned. In fine, it was found necessary to send five or six men to the watch-house in order to put her Out of her calculation ." [6] Here it is quite sufficient to suppose that the rook sensed the impression of two men as different from the impression

(253) of three men, but was unable to sense the difference between the impression of a group of four men from that of a group of five men.

At the instigation, and under the supervision of Mr Romanes, the keeper in charge of the chimpanzee, Sally, at the Zoological Gardens, made this matter the subject of experimental investigation. The facts elicited are of great interest, however we interpret them. This highly intelligent animal was taught to hand to the keeper any number of straws up to five, and subsequently further[7] on being asked. The straws were first placed in -her mouth, and then handed to the keeper. During my visits to the 'Gardens, I have seen her perform this operation sixteen times, of which eleven gave correct results. But on one day when she was twice wrong (giving three for five, and four for three), the keeper said she was tired, and inclined to be sulky. I did not see any experiments beyond five. Here we have (1) an association of an appropriate group with a given sound, and (2) a distinguishing of the group we call three from the groups we call two, four, and five. Whether the groups were sensed as similar and dissimilar, as the case may be, or were numerically perceived, is a matter of interpretation. My own view is that the sensing of the similarity or dissimilarity of the groups or sequences is not beyond the power of sense-experience, and that there was no true perception of numerical relations-relations which even among the lower members of the human race are only perceived in a-very rudimentary fashion, if indeed in the case of some savages they are perceived at all. But this is merely my own opinion. It is possible that, under the guidance of the keeper, Sally wag acquiring the rudiments of reflection and perception.

I will now proceed to describe some experiments I have made with dogs the object of which was to ascertain how

(254) far they perceived the nature of a difficulty they had to, overcome, or how far they were led to overcome it by he process of repeated trial and error, which constitutes the method of intelligence. I may introduce these experiments by quoting a description I have elsewhere[8] given. Some years ago, I was out with a gentleman who was teaching a couple of Scotch terrier pups to carry sticks. Each had a light cane in his mouth. After a while we came to a gate, at the side of which was a gap for foot-passengers between two uprights. We passed through and watched the puppies. Both blundered against the uprights, which caught the ends of the canes. There was a little scrimmaging, and some further ineffectual struggles, and then both dropped the sticks and came through. Their master sent them back to " fetch." The first to arrive at the gap just put his head through, seized a cane by the end and dragged, it after him. The other ran through the gap, picked up the cane as' usual by the middle, and blundered as before. Again he dropped it and came through. I then went back and placed the stick, so that he could put his head through and seize the end as the other had done. But again he went through bodily, picked up the cane by the middle as before, and blundered. Then his master tried to teach him how to do it. On our return an hour or so afterwards I held the first pup, so that it might be seen how far the other had learnt his lesson. He blundered, however, as, before. Then we called him off, and allowed the other pup to have his turn. He, too, blundered for a little, and then came back to us. We passed through the gap and called him after us. Again he blundered; but then, dropping the cane, came through, and, turning, seized the cane by the middle, and tried to pull it after him. Of course it caught, and fell out of his mouth. He then seized it nearer the end.

(255) Even so it caught; but, by turning his head about, after some little scrambling, he eventually pulled it through.

These pups, then, did not act alike; both had to learn by experience to meet new circumstances. It is remarkable that the apparently more intelligent pup when sent back in .the first instance seized the cane at once by the end and dragged it through; and if the observations had been carried no further, one might have supposed that he clearly perceived the best means to effect the desired result. But the second time he did not seize the end of the stick, and this may well lead one to suppose that it was rather good fortune than clear perception which made him successful before.

Since writing the above, I have made this matter one of experimental investigation. I will describe the results I obtained with Tony, the fox-terrier, then about fourteen months old. The scene of operations was a field along one side of which run vertical rails about six inches apart, between which he can readily pass. There is one place where a rail is absent, and the gap is therefore twice the usual width. Along one side of the field, at right angles to that described, there is an ordinary open iron fencing.

First day. -- Standing on the path adjoining the field, and separated from it by the first mentioned vertical rails, I sent the dog after a short stick into the field, and called him back through the railings. The stick caught at the ends. I whistled, and the dog pushed and struggled vigorously. He retired into the field, lay down, and began gnawing the stick. I called him, and he came up slowly to the railings, and stuck again. After some effort- he put big bead on one side, and got the stick, a short one, through. I patted him, and showed him my satisfaction. Then I sent him after it again. He came up to the railings with more confidence, but, having the stick well by the middle, found his passage barred. After some struggles he dropped the stick

(256) and came through. I sent him back to fetch. He put hiss head through, and seized the stick by the middle and then pulled with all his might, dancing up and down in his endeavours. Wriggling his bead in the efforts, he at last got the stick through. A third time he again stuck ; again dropped the stick; and again seizing it by the middle tried to pull it through. He failed, and came to me. I put the stick so that he could seize it by one end and pull it through. But when I sent him after it he went through himself, picked it up by the middle, and tried to push his way through, succeeding, after many abortive attempts, by holding his head on one side.

Second day.-- I sent him after a quite short stick. about nine inches long. He came back holding it at one end cigar-fashion. It struck a rail, and he put his head on one side, and came through easily. Sent after it again, he seized the stick by the middle and stuck; but soon got through by holding his head on one side. After repeating this several times, he came up to the railings with his head sideways. I sent him a dozen times after this stick, that he might gain experience of how to deal with the difficulty. I then sent him after a longer stick. He brought it by the middle, holding his head on one side; it caught, and lie struggled. Then he dropped it and came through. I sent him back. He again seized it by the middle, and, approaching the railings as before, tried to push through ; then, failing, dropped -the stick, and could not be induced to make a further attempt. I took him for a walk of a _mile or so, and on our return sent him through where the rail was missing, and standing just there, called him. He came up with some little force, and the rails caught the ends of the stick. He dropped it and came through ; and on being sent back seized it by the middle, and tried to get it past by hard pulling. I sent it again into the field. He raced about with it, and came to the open railings; went through and ran down, the path to

(257) me. I threw it again Just through the railings, and called him towards the wider gap; the stick caught, and he then raced round through the open fence. Twice more he did the same thing. After that he ran round at once without trying the vertical railings.

Third day. -Experiments with sticks at first gave the same results as before. The dog had not in the least improved in bringing a long stick through the railings. But he had learnt by experience that he could easily run round with the stick, and would not try to bring it through. He had the intelligence to shirk the difficulty which he could not overcome.

After some weeks I tried him again. The stick caught by the ends and be pushed with great vigour and assiduity, but with no result. He then dropped it, and jumping over it put his nose through the railings, and catching it by the middle tugged for three minutes, dancing up and down in his energetic efforts. I placed one end near the wider gap and induced him to take it in his mouth, and pull the stick through. I then throw the stick again into the field, but he caught sight of the open railings (I had purposely approached the field from the other side) and ran round.

On a subsequent occasion I prepared a short yew stick with a crook at one end where a side branch had been partly cut off. I brought the dog up to the field on the side furthest from the open railings and sent him through after this yew stick. It caught; and after many attempts to push it through he dropped it. -1 sent him back, and after a while induced him to take it by one end and drag it after him so that it might catch by the crook at the other encl. He then tugged at it in the most ridiculously energetic fashion. Nothing could apparently be simpler than to push the stick up, free the crook, and pull the whole through but the dog continued to pull. I repeated the experiment many times, and tried to show the dog how the difficulty

(258) could be overcome. But each time the crook -caught, he pulled with all his strength, seizing the stick now at the end, now in the middle, now near the crook. At length he seized the crook itself, and with a wrench broke it off A man who was passing, and who had paused for a couple of minutes to watch the proceedings, said, "Clever dog that, sit ; he knows where the hitch do lie." The remark was the characteristic outcome of two minutes' chance observation. During the half-hour or more that I watched the dog he had tried nearly every possible way of holding and tugging at the stick. And such is the method of sense-experience- continued trial and error until a happy effect is reached. I subsequently tried Tony with a similar-crooked stick, but he had spied the open railings, or remembered them, and ran round with it and came down the path.

I have experimented with several other dogs in the same way and with similar -results, to describe which would be mere wearisome repetition. I will therefore content myself with adding a few words concerning an hour's observation of a very intelligent Yorkshire terrier, Toddy. This dog is exceedingly bright, active, and clever at such tricks as finding a ball or other object hidden in his, mistress's drawing-room. His master, my friend and colleague, Professor Leipner, came with me and stimulated Toddy to his best efforts. I do not propose to give the results in detail ; they were quite similar to those with Tony. The general results may be thus summarised. It was only by chance that the dog seized the end of the stick and pulled it through. At the end of the hour he was no better than be was at the beginning. When the stick was placed in the best position for seizing one end and pulling it through the dog seized it by the middle, walked with it into the field, and brought it up to the railings. The effect produced on both our minds was that Toddy showed no evidence of perceiving the way in which the difficulty could be overcome.


Now I am particularly anxious that it should be quite 'clearly understood that I do not for one moment doubt that, with a little trouble and patience, one could teach a dog-or that he could himself learn-to bring a stick through railings. Dogs can be taught, and may acquire through their own efforts, much more difficult and complex tricks. What the observations show, so far as the dogs observed are concerned, is that their way of dealing with the difficulty is the method of trial and error, which is the method of sense-experience. In other words the facts observed can be completely explained on the hypothesis that there is sense experience only. The perception of relations as such is not necessary to the performances, and is therefore by our canon of interpretation excluded.

I have experimented with dogs in the following way I have tied a thread to a stick or other object with which they would play, and have drawn the object towards me so that there should be established an association between the movement and me -- the movement being always in the same direction. I have then passed the thread round the leg of a chair, or some such support, and caused the object to move off in the opposite direction. I wished to see if there was any evidence of surprise at a result which was quite new to the dog's experience. I have not succeeded in observing anything of the sort. Mr Romanes, however, found that one of his dogs showed surprise and disquietude, rising at last to dread, when a dry bone with which it had been playing on the lawn was made to come to life, and given supernatural powers of activity by means of a thread.[9] I have tried a similar experiement I on a good many dogs, but with no positive result. One young and timid pup did indeed show fear : but he showed similar signs of fear when any thing was thrown or rolled towards him.


I have several times noticed that when a bone is tied to after it a piece of fine string, and a dog made to race round after as it is swung in a circle, the dog will after a while bite at, the string and so avert the motion of the bone. And it may be said that such an action implies a perception of the relation which the string bears to the bone in motion. I am sure, however, that such perception is not necessary. The dog sees the bone swinging round, and sees the string. After many ineffectual attempts to seize the bone which he cannot catch, he at last snaps at the string which he can catch. That he senses the string as partaking of the motion of the bone cannot be questioned; but I do -not think there is any necessary perception of the relations as such. or indeed is the moment of excited activity one in which all relation as such is likely to become focal. In our own moments of strenuous action, though we may and do profit fit by the results which have been wrought into our nature the perception of relations, we have no time-to make, them focal. Such focussing of relations is the result of reflection. It can hardly be said that a dog who is introduced to something so new to his experience as a bone flying round and round at the end of a string, has had any previous data for the quiet perception of the relations involved.

The conclusion to which I think we must be led by the foregoing considerations is that, in answer to the question which heads this chapter: Do animals perceive relations?we must reply that all the ordinary activities of animals can. be explained on the supposition that they do not. Furthermore it would appear that experimental observations tend", to support the view that sense-experience is all sufficient them, and that in face of an unwonted obstacle they trust entirely to the method of sense-experience, that of trial and error, for dealing with it. But it will doubtless be" said that it is not in such cases that we are forced to admit a higher faculty than that which falls under the designation sense-

(261) -experience. It is in the remarkable cases of " the reasoning power of animals," that we find a body of evidence which forces upon us the conviction that they are rational beings. Before considering such cases, however, we have to learn how the perception of relations leads up to conceptual ought and to reason ; and we have to make it quite clear in what sense we are to employ the words "reason" and "rational." It is not a, matter on which those who have attentively studied psychology are by any means agreed. And whether animals have the faculty of reason or not very largely depends on the exact sense in which this word is used. The psychologist is apt sometimes to smile when after the recital, probably in the correspondence columns of newspaper, of some anecdote of animal intelligence the writer exclaims, If this is not reason I do not know what reason is. As, however, in such cases the writer has himself suggested the alternative, there is perhaps no discourtesy on -the part of the psychologist in accepting it.

Note. -- With regard to the statement made on p. 246 in reference to he so-called speech of monkeys, Mr Kinnaman, who carefully studied, two rhesus monkeys in captivity, says:-"Several sounds have been used signifying food, danger, loneliness, anger, and disappointment ; .but these are not words-only very general instinctive responses" (Amer. Journ. of Psych., vol. xiii., p. 211). And Mr George Jennison, -as the outcome of his experience at the Belle Vue Gardens, Manchester, says:-" In four years' work with chimpanzees we could never notice any sounds not marking distinct emotions, pleasure, pain, anger. Almost any chimpanzee will respond to the pleasure cry" (quoted in Hobhouse's Mind in Evolution, note to p. 291).

Commenting on Leroy's report of the calculating rook, quoted on p. 252, M. Ribot says:- I see here not a numeration but a perception of plurality, which is something quite different." The word perception is here used in connection with sensory experience. (Evolution of General Ideas, p. 21.) [1903.]


  1. "The Evolution of Mind in Man," footnote, pp.25,26.
  2. The Speech of Monkeys," by R.Garner.
  3. Animal Life and Intelligence," p. 344.
  4. Page 24. In this quotation I have substituted the word 'I knowledge " for " intelligence," since Mr Medlicott uses the latter word in a different sense from that adopted in this work.
  5. Passions of Animals," p. 29.
  6. "Animal Intelligence," Eng. Trans. Quoted by Mr Romanes, "Origin of Human Faculty," p. 57.
  7. See Romanes; Nature, VOL 40, p. 160.
  8. Fortnightly Review, August 1893, p. 223.
  9. Fetishism in Animals," Nature, Vol. xvii. 168.

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