The Missing Link in Cognition: Origins of Self-Reflective Consciousness

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9780195161564: The Missing Link in Cognition: Origins of Self-Reflective Consciousness

Are humans unique in having self-reflective consciousness? Or can precursors to this central form of human consciousness be found in non-human species? The Missing Link in Cognition brings together a diverse group of researchers who have been investigating this question from a variety of perspectives, including the extent to which non-human primates, and, indeed, young children, have consciousness, a sense of self, thought process, metacognitions, and representations. Some of the participants--Kitcher, Higgins, Nelson, and Tulving--argue that these types of cognitive abilities are uniquely human, whereas others--Call, Hampton, Kinsbourne, Menzel, Metcalfe, Schwartz, Smith, and Terrace--are convinced that at least the precursors to self-reflective consciousness exist in non-human primates.

Their debate focuses primarily on the underpinnings of consciousness. Some of the participants believe that consciousness depends on representational thought and on the mental manipulation of such representations. Is representational thought enough to ensure consciousness, or does one need more? If one needs more, exactly what is needed? Is reflection upon the representations, that is, metacognition, the link? Does a realization of the contingencies, that is, "knowing that," in Gilbert Ryle's terminology, ensure that a person or an animal is conscious? Is true episodic memory needed for consciousness, and if so, do any animals have it? Is it possible to have episodic memory or, indeed, any self-reflective processing, without language?

Other participants believe that consciousness is inextricably intertwined with a sense of self or self-awareness. From where does this sense of self or self-awareness arise? Some of the participants believe that it develops only through the use of language and the narrative form. If it does develop in this way, what about claims of a sense of self or self-awareness in non-human animals? Others believe that the autobiographical record implied by episodic memory is fundamental. To what extent must non-human animals have the linguistic, metacognitive, and/or representational abilities to develop a sense of self or self-awareness? These and other related concerns are crucial in this volume's lively debate over the nature of the missing cognitive link, and whether gorillas, chimps, or other species might be more like humans than many have supposed.

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About the Author:

Herbert S. Terrace obtained his Ph.D at Harvard University, where he was a student of B.F. Skinner. Partly as a result of Project Nim (an attempt to teach sign language to the chimpanzee Nim Chimpsky), his interests changed from behaviourism to animal cognition. Currently, he is investigating the ability of monkeys to remember arbitrary sequences and has provided extensive evidence that they can think about those sequences without language. Janet Metcalfe received her doctorate from the University of Toronto. Although she started her career as a computational modeler of human memory, having developed a composite holographic associative recall model (CHARM), she has, for many years, studied human metacognition. She has published extensively on the mechanisms underlying human metacognitive abilities, and the repercussions of these abilities. She has been an editor of several special issues on human metacognition including the popular volume Metacognition: Knowing about Knowing.

Review:


"After a century in the wilderness of questions considered unanswerable by science, the study of animal consciousness has undergone a revival in the last few decades. Research on consiousness in nonhumans has spawned several experimental paradigms, all of which are represented in this edited volume. The Missing Link in Cognition (the missing link being, as its subtitle suggests, the origin of self-reflective consiousness) stands as an excellent resource for advanced students and researchers interested in the state of the art in this rapidly growing field... greatly expands our understanding of the things nonhumans can and cannot do." --TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences


"remarkable collection of essays by some of the most renowned scientists in the fields of cognitive psychology, development, animal learning, and primatology. No doubt because of the conference origins of the text, each chapter is written with full awareness of and integration with the topics in the other chapters. This is a very welcome if somewhat rare feature in edited volumes . . . This text would be an excellent addition to any psychologist's library. Only those with no interest in cognition, development, the conscious mind, animal behavior, evolutionary theory, or philosophy of science would fail to thoroughly enjoy this text. It is likely only accessible to graduate students and professionals, but it should be fascinating to all of them." --Salavador Macias, in Psyccritiques


"...essential reading for anyone interested in the nature of self-awareness."--Alan M. Leslie, Rutgers University


"We usually think that we are the only conscious beings, but after reading this collection of empirical and philosophical papers, this position becomes hard to maintain. There is plenty of common ground."--Frans B. M. de Waal, Living Links Center


"...Particularly important and surprising are its reports of recent ingenious research showing something like metacognitive competencies in primates."--John H. Flavell, Stanford University


"Just when you thought it was safe to proclaim our intellectual uniqueness and domination of the animal kingdom, along comes The Missing Link in Cognition, the latest challenge to our status as the paragon of animals."--Marc Hauser, Harvard University


"After a century in the wilderness of questions considered unanswerable by science, the study of animal consciousness has undergone a revival in the last few decades. Research on consiousness in nonhumans has spawned several experimental paradigms, all of which are represented in this edited volume. The Missing Link in Cognition (the missing link being, as its subtitle suggests, the origin of self-reflective consiousness) stands as an excellent resource for advanced students and researchers interested in the state of the art in this rapidly growing field... greatly expands our understanding of the things nonhumans can and cannot do." --TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences


"remarkable collection of essays by some of the most renowned scientists in the fields of cognitive psychology, development, animal learning, and primatology. No doubt because of the conference origins of the text, each chapter is written with full awareness of and integration with the topics in the other chapters. This is a very welcome if somewhat rare feature in edited volumes . . . This text would be an excellent addition to any psychologist's library. Only those with no interest in cognition, development, the conscious mind, animal behavior, evolutionary theory, or philosophy of science would fail to thoroughly enjoy this text. It is likely only accessible to graduate students and professionals, but it should be fascinating to all of them." --Salavador Macias, in Psyccritiques


"...essential reading for anyone interested in the nature of self-awareness."--Alan M. Leslie, Rutgers University


"We usually think that we are the only conscious beings, but after reading this collection of empirical and philosophical papers, this position becomes hard to maintain. There is plenty of common ground."--Frans B. M. de Waal, Living Links Center


"...Particularly important and surprising are its reports of recent ingenious research showing something like metacognitive competencies in primates."--John H. Flavell, Stanford University


"Just when you thought it was safe to proclaim our intellectual uniqueness and domination of the animal kingdom, along comes The Missing Link in Cognition, the latest challenge to our status as the paragon of animals."--Marc Hauser, Harvard University


"...admirably explores the cognitive dimensions of self-reflective consciousness...the individuals chapters are all of high quality...a useful volume for readers interested in a broad-ranging examination of this topic."--The Quarterly Review of Biology


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Herbert S. Terrace (Editor), Janet Metcalfe (Editor)
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