What separates your mind from the mind of an animal? Maybe you think it’s your ability to design tools, your sense of self, or your grasp of past and future – all traits that have helped us define ourselves as the pre-eminent species on Earth. But in recent decades, claims of human superiority have been eroded by a revolution in the study of animal cognition.
Take the way octopuses use coconut shells as tools, or how elephants can classify humans by age, gender, and language. Take Ayumu, the young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University who demonstrates his species’ exceptional photographic memory. Based on research on a range of animals, including crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, whales, and, of course, chimpanzees and bonobos, our guest today explores the scope and depth of animal intelligence, revealing how we have grossly underestimated non-human brains.
He overturns the view of animals as stimulus-response beings and opens our eyes to their complex and intricate minds. With astonishing stories of animal cognition, his work challenges everything you thought you knew about animal – and human – intelligence. We welcome author of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, Frans de Waal.
More about Frans:
Frans De Waal – Final
[00:00:00] Steve Jobs: [00:00:00] Stay hungry, stay foolish.
[00:00:13] Aidan McCullen: [00:00:13] What separates your mind from the mind of an animal? Maybe you think it’s your ability to design tools, your sense of self or your grasp of past and future all traits that have helped us define ourselves as the preeminent species on earth. But in recent decades, claims of human superiority have been eroded by a revolution in the study of animal cognition.
[00:00:37] Take the way octopuses use coconut shells as tools or how elephants can classify humans by age, gender, and language take are you move the young male chimpanzee at university who demonstrates his species? Exceptional photographic memory. Based on research on a range of animals, including crows dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, [00:01:00] whales, and of course, chimpanzees and Bonobos.
[00:01:02] Our guest today explores the scope and depth of animal intelligence, revealing how we have grossly underestimated nonhuman brains. He overturns the view of animals, a stimulus response beings and opens their eyes to their complex and intricate minds with astonishing stories of animal cognition, his work challenges, everything you thought you knew about animal and human intelligence.
[00:01:28] We welcome author of, are we smart enough to know how smart animals are Frans De Waal, welcome to the show.
[00:01:36] Frans De Waal: [00:01:36] I’m glad to be there.
[00:01:37] Aidan McCullen: [00:01:37] This show is brought to you by Microsoft, for startups, and don’t forget to sign up for the innovation show newsletter to win books and courses every week. Although we consider ourselves top of the food chain and studies show, we have more developed frontal cortices.
[00:01:51] It does not mean animals are dumb and terms like bird, brain are all wrong. In fact, there is so much we can learn from animals. They are natural [00:02:00] problem solvers. And to illustrate this, you open the book with the great story of Franje.
[00:02:05] Frans De Waal: [00:02:05] What happens with Franje I worked at the time at a large zoo in the Netherlands, where they had the world’s largest colony of chimpanzees of 25 chimps on a big Island.
[00:02:16] And, um, when the weather got called, the chimps would still go out. Um, but, uh, they, they were clearly worried about the Colts butter and a fine year would one day she would collect all of the straw from her night cage, where she had been sleeping indoors and carry it with her outdoors, which is an indication that, which normally they never did.
[00:02:41] This happened, never happens, but she was doing that in the, in Nicole time in November. Uh, which indicates that she knew he was going to get cold today and that she better had something to harm herself. And so that’s, that’s looking forward and we do a lot of science nowadays on planning and, uh, looking forward, [00:03:00] looking backwards to what degree animals are capable of that it’s called time travel.
[00:03:04] And we have all sorts of indications that animals can do that is that they can make plans. So for example, in the wild. Chimpanzees may collect grass stems at one place, and then walk two miles with these grass stems in their mouth, and then arrive at the termite Hills. He used the grass to fish for termites, meaning that.
[00:03:26] For a couple of hours before their time, they had already made plans to do this. So the planning capacities of apes and also some birds are now,
[00:03:36] Aidan McCullen: [00:03:36] this is what really struck me was that people say animals don’t prepare for the future, but rather they’re just react and live day to day and fine. You seem to be preparing for the future.
[00:03:47] Frans De Waal: [00:03:47] Yeah. But we need to be careful. So, so does the scribbles, for example, I’m not sure that just squabbles know about to winter that’s coming and plan for the future. Because even though a squirrel who has never [00:04:00] seen a winter. We’ll collect nuts in the fall. So obvious criminals, we sync it is some sort of inborn tendency that is regulated by the weather and change of the season.
[00:04:11] So the light cycle, so the squirrels are triggered to hide nuts and they will use them in the spring or in, into winter. But we say chimps and some other animals. We do experiments where, for example, we give them tools that they can not use immediately. They have the choice between let’s say. Uh, fruits that they can eat now, the tool that they can use now, and a tool that they can use tomorrow, they have learned that this tool is for tomorrow for something big tomorrow.
[00:04:39] And then we see what they prefer and chimps will prefer the tool for tomorrow. They will sync it. That’s a better deal for me. That also indicates they’re thinking ahead. So for the chimps and some birds, we have indications that they can sink for.
[00:04:53] Aidan McCullen: [00:04:53] You tell another great story. And I know I butchered the name Renee, but this one is queef.
[00:05:03] [00:05:00] I got your name, right friends. I got your name right
[00:05:06] Frans De Waal: [00:05:06] this year with Caiaphas in England. It’s it’s, it’s some, uh, Mohawk on your head or something, but anyway, uh, She also gave indications of thinking forward. It seems an interesting case because we would have to come in several times a day from the colony, lived outdoors on an Island.
[00:05:24] She would have to come in several times a day to bottle feed her baby because we had taught her how to bottle feed and she had a baby on her, but she would have to come in so that we could give her the bottle and she could feed her baby. And, um, Before she would do that. So she would be hanging around for 71 and grooming with the other chimps and having fights with them or whatever she did.
[00:05:46] But before she would come into the building, she would say goodbye to some of the chimps. She would go to the alpha male and say goodbye and kiss him. And she would go to her best friend, the mama, the alpha female, and say goodbye and kiss her [00:06:00] as she would do that to several individuals before she would come in.
[00:06:04] Uh, so saying goodbye is so interesting because we are so used to animals who say hello, like, like your dog, when you arrive home will say hello, of course, but how many animals say goodbye? How NMR, how many analysts sink ahead? Like we do. We also say goodbye because we know we know of the separation and we know it may take awhile before we see that individual again.
[00:06:25] Aidan McCullen: [00:06:25] You talked about this yourself actually, with, with leaving, to go to the States, for example, and even your mother and that type of thing. So yeah, it’s that type of goodbye or what we all would have experienced. Yes. We’ve probably experienced the Mohawk as well during this covert lockdown, but we’ve also had to say goodbye to some people, but I wanted to jump ahead too.
[00:06:45] The concept of as a precursor to say. There are lots of cognitive adaptations out there that we humans don’t have or don’t need. And this is why ranking cognition on a single dimension is a pointless [00:07:00] exercise. Cognitive evolution is marked by peaks of specialization. I love this and the ecology of each species is key.
[00:07:07] And to illustrate this, you provided the example of Gibbons and the out of reach banana test.
[00:07:14] Frans De Waal: [00:07:14] Well, it is a concept that comes from from school. I think it’s at least the second year ago, I
[00:07:19] Aidan McCullen: [00:07:19] let you pronounce stuff. By the way, did you notice that
[00:07:24] Frans De Waal: [00:07:24] and means your surroundings and, and he already said that every animal has its own way of looking at the world, uh, because of the smells that they can smell the hearing they have, for example, an elephant.
[00:07:39] Has a hundred times better smell than a dog and a dog has at a hundred times better than us. So you can imagine, but the elephant can smell compared to what we can smell. So, so the amount of the elephant is very different from ours because it consists of sounds and smells, especially. So, so he had this concept and we need to apply that every time we test an animal, we need to [00:08:00] think about how does this animal perceive the world and what can this animal do in the world.
[00:08:05] And that is sometimes very difficult for us. So, so an interesting testimony was Gibbons, which are primates, um, and actually very close to the apes. We are basically apes like chimps and gorillas, and we are large TLS primates. And the given is also a tail less primate. I started, the givens were tested on, of course they would put some food outside of the cage and, and give them sticks and, and see if they would use the sticks to reach to food as, as any normal ape would do.
[00:08:37] Uh, but to Gibbons didn’t do anything. And, uh, that’s where a scientist who knew Gibbons very well. He decided to, uh, put these little sticks on a sort of elevation so that they were easier to grasp the given doesn’t have a sump. It’s a, it’s a three dwelling primate who never comes to the ground. He always hangs by [00:09:00] his hands and into trees and, and doesn’t need a thump.
[00:09:03] And so they have no thumps and it was impossible to pick up the sticks for the Gibbon. And as soon as the scientist made it a little bit easier for them, they started doing it and they use tools like everybody else. And so that shows that you always need to adapt your tests. And this is a very simple case.
[00:09:19] You need to adapt your tests to what the animals can do and will do, and how they perceive it. With elephants. We had the similar situation because elephants were also tested on tools. For some reason, we think you have to use tools if you want to be smart, because we, we are, we, humans are told you it’s us.
[00:09:35] And so we measure animals by our standards basically. And so, uh, elephants were tested on tools also in the same way. There’s food outside of their cage, give them sticks, see if they use them and the elephants didn’t do anything. Now it turns out that for the elephant, the Oregon, that they would use is the trunk.
[00:09:54] And we think of the trunk as a sort of hand. But the trunk is actually a nose, of [00:10:00] course. And so for the elephant to pick up something with the trunk means that he has to close off the nose. And when you, when you reach for foods, that’s maybe not the best thing to do. And so the elephant refuse to do that, but when they set up a different test for them, where they hung food, very high.
[00:10:18] And gave them boxes. This was at the zoo in Washington. They gave them boxes to stand on and the boxes were fired away. The elephant would go to the distant location to get these boxes, roll them to the place where the food was hung very high. And then stand on top of the box to reach the food. Meaning that he was using until, so they were very, they were capable of using tools, but it had to be the right tools and the right circumstance.
[00:10:43] Aidan McCullen: [00:10:43] This was really key for cognition in general. And this is the thing, and I absolutely highly recommend this book. And you, by the way, your illustrations that you did yourself to write the book are beautifully done. But I wanted to highlight a section from the book here. You said [00:11:00] faced with negative outcomes.
[00:11:01] We need to pay close attention to differences in motivation and attention. One cannot expect a great performance on a task that fails to arouse interest. The reason I shared this is. As I read it. I wondered about the great effort you and your colleagues poured into these tasks versus the generic one size fits all tests we have for children, for IQ, for example, or add or other neurodiverse skillsets.
[00:11:28] And it reminded me of a quote attributed to Einstein, which is. Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it’s stupid.
[00:11:40] Frans De Waal: [00:11:40] Yeah. I think, I think what happens with us is that we are very good at language and very good at tool use that that’s the specialties of humans, I would say.
[00:11:50] And we’re very proud of that. And so we think if an animal, if you want to judge an animal as being smart, you have to be good at that too. And so that’s why [00:12:00] we have done all these experiments with language teaching to apes, and we have all these experiments we still use because that’s really what we think is so important now.
[00:12:10] But there’s other capacities take, for example, echolocation of the bat. That’s a very complex skill. Ask any engineer who designs a radar system for an airplane, how complex that is too right to design a system like that for a flying object who while flying needs to know orient in the world. It’s, it’s extremely
[00:12:31] The bat is cognitively very advanced is a very smart animal. But in a way that we can not relate to because echolocation doesn’t mean much for us, so we don’t do much for it. And so we always judge animals by our standards. And when they fall short, like in the AP language studies where they tried to teach language for apes, that apes were not doing so great.
[00:12:53] And if they fall short, we say, look, we are the smartest. We also want to be the smartest. Anyway, in that [00:13:00] regard, it’s sort of interesting. The elephant is interesting because. There was a time like five, six years ago when people said we’re not going to look at the size of the brain of animals. We just gonna look at the number of neurons they have in the brain, and we’re going to counter neurons.
[00:13:16] And everyone must convinced that humans would come out on top. And so that was the way we were going to look at intelligence, competitive intelligence and tell the scientists, get the data. It is job on elephant brain, which is by the way, three times larger than the human brain. And found that the elephant actually has three times more neurons than we do.
[00:13:40] And that’s where everything fell apart and where they very quickly abandoned the whole scheme of counting neurons as a way of looking at the intelligence, because we, we do want to be on top. And so if that doesn’t work, then we find another way
[00:13:53] Aidan McCullen: [00:13:53] I lived in the UK and at the top of my street, I lived there for two years.
[00:13:57] There was a corner store and it was owned by a [00:14:00] Pakistani family. And I probably went there by three times per week. On every time they treated me, like I was a stranger and they recognize my Irish accent and they kind of go, Oh, how’s it going? Nice of you just moved in. And I was like, I persevered for two years of this.
[00:14:16] And then the week I was leaving, I was like gonna go and just, just wanted to say to you, you know, um, I’ve lived right. Like a few doors up here and I’ve come in here probably a hundred times in the last two years. And every time you ask me, have I just moved in and he goes to me all you Irish guys look the same to us and that everyone likes him.
[00:14:37] But what I was reading about facial recognition, In in animals. I was like blown away by what you were saying.
[00:14:45] Frans De Waal: [00:14:45] Yeah. So we, humans, we have sometimes trouble recognizing faces of different groups, different ethnic groups. So that’s what happened to you is that we are much better at the faces of our group than the other group, but this also happens to species.
[00:14:59] And [00:15:00] so in, in chimpanzees and other primates, people had tested face recognition because we, humans are very good at that very quick. And so what you do is you present them on a computer screen and you see if they can match faces that are different photographs of the same individual. Do they match those that’s how do they, how it tests the face recognition.
[00:15:22] And they had found that chimpanzees are very poor, that, and that we humans are much better. And so the speculation was that human face recognition is, is a specialty, is a specially evolved characteristic. But, you know, they had tested the gyms on human faces. And when I asked the scientists who did their work, um, why did you test them on human faces?
[00:15:45] They said, well, human faces are so different. One from the other that if they cannot do human faces, they can impossibly do their own faces. So they were so convinced that fitted human stood apart in that. And so when my student Lisa Parker started [00:16:00] testing chimps and faces, we had a lot of photographs of Tim faces.
[00:16:04] And so we did the same tests. They were all of a sudden, just as good humans. There was no difference. And so chimps are excellent at face recognition. It needs to be chimpanzee faces, not human faces. And for them, chimpanzee faces are probably be a lot more different than a human faces.
[00:16:20] Aidan McCullen: [00:16:20] This is a skill we thought was uniquely human, but you’ve told us further on in the book about paper wipes and how cognition depends on ecology, ecology being a branch of biology, concerning interactions among organisms and their environment.
[00:16:35] Frans De Waal: [00:16:35] A few wasps that live in small societies. You’d have a hierarchy. I think you have alpha and beta and gamma individuals. And I think it’s all females, but I’m not a wasp expert and they recognize each other and you can test them on there. You can test them because all of these phases have different patterns of yellow and black.
[00:16:55] And so they recognize you so that they have very good face recognition too. And [00:17:00] so that’s the specialty that they need in their smaller skill societies. And so sometimes animals have a cognitive capacity that you may not expect, like in this case face recognition, because they specifically needed.
[00:17:12] Aidan McCullen: [00:17:12] Moving on to something quite different. Just about your field in general. So again, you, you, you say that tongue in cheek in the book, correct? On many of our devices doesn’t pick it up, but he theology. It’s always going to ethnology, but yeah. I found some really important lessons in your field of work. And one of them comes from one of the heroes of this show, which is Isaac Asimov and Isaac Asimov.
[00:17:39] The science fiction novelist said the most exciting phrase to hear in science. The one that Harold’s new discoveries is not Eureka. Oh, that’s funny. And that’s exactly what, one of the founders of your profession, etiology, Niko Tinbergen said when he noticed how stickleback fish reacted to passing red mail trucks.
[00:18:00] [00:17:59] Frans De Waal: [00:17:59] Sure. I’m an ecologist by training. You said there’s a big difference. Utelogy is a European specialty out of biology. These are biologists interested in natural, natural or naturalistic animal behavior. The other category of scientist who does work on animal behavior are what we called behaviorists. They are more American and more psychologists.
[00:18:22] They are not the biologist. So they have a less of an evolutionary perspective and they’re more interested in what you can teach animals and how you can train animals and the learning capacities of animals, such as the Skinner box, you know, pressing a lever to learn something so that it’s ologists have a more naturalistic approach and Tinbergen who later worked in Oxford.
[00:18:44] He worked most of his life in Oxford, in the UK, uh, but he started his career in the Netherlands. And they had red male tractor at a, at a time, um, that would drive by in the street. And he had his fish tanks in Laden, uh, [00:19:00] looking, looking out on the street basically. And he noticed that his fish would respond to a direct mail truck.
[00:19:06] This was sort of ridiculous, of course. Uh, and, um, as it turns out, he sticklebacks, they have a red belly. The males have red belly when they are in courtship. And, um, yeah, if any ferry, uh, alert or red bellies, because they are arrivals, they don’t accept in their territory. Another male of his red belly. And so Dan was funneling to the truck.
[00:19:30] Yeah, the red male truck, basically as if it was a competitor and reacting to it. And that’s how, that’s how Tinbergen got started with this study on the courtship displays of the
[00:19:40] Aidan McCullen: [00:19:40] stickleback. There’s so much in there as well for human cognition. And this is what I found when you read your work. It makes you look in the mirror and realize how many things we’ve overlooked in life stuff, staring us right in the face and even, you know, human reactions, human evolution.
[00:19:57] Like for example, one of the things I heard when I read this [00:20:00] made me think of is one of the reasons. Women wear red lipstick is because the human mind, particularly the male eye is tuned into red because it was either a threat or it was buried.
[00:20:13] Frans De Waal: [00:20:13] Yeah, that’s possible. You notice a speculation about it.
[00:20:16] This is speculation, but Desmond Morris, uh, Jasmine wise re wrote rotor naked ape, and he’s also a neonatologist and he, uh, speculated that, um, we have moved a lot of. Signals that are genital signals or bedrock signals to the face. And so for him, the red lips, the red lips signifies something else,
[00:20:40] Aidan McCullen: [00:20:40] which reminds me actually, when you talked about when chimpanzees use mirrors, for example, very funny incident, you mentioned that female chimps will actually look at their Botox as well because they look for things that they don’t normally see.
[00:20:56] Frans De Waal: [00:20:56] Yeah, for the females they’re behind because in chimps and [00:21:00] Bonobos, the females have swollen genitals when they are fertile, which is a big signal for the males. And the males are very attracted to that. So for the female, her behind is a very important part of her body. And she will always look at that in the mirror.
[00:21:15] When you show a mirror to a males. They don’t look for they’re behind they’re behind is totally uninteresting and they’re not, they’re going to look inside their mouse or something like that, so that they’re using it for something. Yeah.
[00:21:27] Aidan McCullen: [00:21:27] It’s so fast. There’s so many anecdotes like this in the book, but one thing I wanted to come back to the difference between behaviorism and an ecology, because I found many.
[00:21:38] Thoughts came to mind about how, how the world has become for us, because behavior is sorted dictate behavior, placing animals in Barron environments, in which they could do little else than what the experiment or wanted. If they didn’t, their behavior was classified as misbehavior. And this is exactly what life and what management often attempts to do what employees.
[00:21:59] And [00:22:00] oftentimes it’s like put everybody in a room and make them innovate rather than put them in a room and create the right environment. And unless ideas and innovation emerge, I’d love a feud. Expand on that from, from your perspective of how animals interact when they’re left alone, versus when they’re kind of made do things.
[00:22:20] Frans De Waal: [00:22:20] Yeah. So the behaviorists they’re called behaviorists because they. Only believed in behavior. If you talked about, let’s say consciousness or feelings or thoughts, they would cringe, they didn’t like these terms. They only liked what you could see in the actual behavior of the animal. And they would have very constrained environments.
[00:22:39] Like the Skinner box was a lever on which the rat can press and get rewards. He couldn’t do anything else. That’s a very social animals. They were alone in the Skinner box or probably not very at ease because rats are more like the monkeys. They’re more at ease when the companions wisdom. And so this, they set up this very artificial situation.
[00:22:59] And as a [00:23:00] result for a hundred years, they didn’t find anything new. They, they kept finding that animals are good at the associative learning, which we all know, uh, which is true. Um, but they have never found really anything spectacular in my opinion. And so there’s a big tension between the way the ecologists look yeah.
[00:23:17] Animals because they prefer naturalistic behavior, uh, and, uh, the way behavior is due. And so behaviors have created, I think, the wrong circumstances. So for example, testing an animal alone. Let me give you an example. I had a monkey lab for a long time. Can put you in monkeys. They lived. Outdoors in, in a, in a social group most of the time, but sometimes we would call them in and they would come in and we do it.
[00:23:42] The test was done as a computer screen or something like that. And so these, what I noticed very quickly is that if you test these monkeys alone, which is a desirable, maybe because then they are not distracted by anybody. Uh, they are very tense. You don’t pay much attention. [00:24:00] Uh, they, they are sort of nervous.
[00:24:02] And so it is much better to bring them in with a friend, is their motto or is a relative or with a friend. Uh, and, and then you have two monkeys sitting there side by side. And they are much happier that way and they pay a much, much better attention. And so we have done all our experiment that we did with these monkeys in situations where they could hear that group and where they had a companion present and by testing animals alone, as many labs do, and many labs even go further than that.
[00:24:32] And many labs who test rats. They deprived them of food. They starved them. So they, they keep them the way they put it in their scientific papers is we kept her rats at 85% of the body weight. Meaning these are fairly, very hungry rats who are posted, perform a complex cognitive task maybe, but are completely focused on food.
[00:24:53] Obviously. And so they set up situations that don’t induce interesting behavior. In my opinion, [00:25:00] in animals, the animals are totally food-focused and each time I see this sentence, uh, have re deprived the animals. Um, I get very nervous by it. There’s an interesting story on that in chimpanzees, the Yerkes primate center, where I work.
[00:25:14] Exists already 100 years and long ago, I think it’s 50 years or 60 years ago. Some behaviorists Skinnerians came to the primates center and one or two test chimpanzees. And they had these very simple tests that are maybe good for rats, but are totally below the level of chimpanzees. And they wanted to start with the chimpanzees.
[00:25:35] And so they, they wanted to put them below their normal wait and, um, They tried to do that, but the animal care staff of the primate center did, they did not agree with them and, and started feeding the animals at night. It’s sort of interesting. They were starting to all experiment. They feeding the chimps at night because they couldn’t standard.
[00:25:58] These, these animals were kept [00:26:00] in hunger. So the behavior has had this. This ID in the ad, which came from Skinner is you need to starve animals, and then you get the best kind of motivation for the tests that we do, but it all biases their results. Enormously. I would say
[00:26:14] Aidan McCullen: [00:26:14] Harlow was more Harry Harlow, the Americans primatologist.
[00:26:19] He was an early critic of the hunger reduction model you say? And he argued that animals learn mostly through curiosity and free exploration, which is what I was getting at with the idea of an organization. An organization works best. There’s a term called psychological safety when it’s in the exact same environment where people feel safe and free and it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from mistakes.
[00:26:42] Frans De Waal: [00:26:42] How about in his article where he was critical of, of skin around the behaviors? He said, what do we do at a universities? The university is a, is a learning institution. Do we start this students? Now? Of course we don’t start with the students and give them food [00:27:00] rewards. I don’t think that the students would be learning very well, but.
[00:27:02] We do not with all these animals. And so he was objecting to that because humans are of course, most creative and absorb information the best when they are at ease, um, when they can explore sings. For example, exploration, just looking around out of curiosity. It’s not driven by food usually, but, um, this was completely beyond the scope of Bay.
[00:27:26] Aidan McCullen: [00:27:26] So you mentioned earlier on about testing animals on their own, and it made me think of what you talk about in here. Brilliant effect called the Kluger hands or the clever hands effect.
[00:27:37] Frans De Waal: [00:27:37] Yeah. Clever Hans, um, has been used fairly often against the cognitive tests that we do nowadays. We now have a generation of students.
[00:27:48] Of animal behavior who has abandoned behaviorism completely and is looking for cognitive characteristics in animals. And that’s why every week we find something new. That is really interesting. [00:28:00] Uh, but for the longest time we were held back by clever Hans clever Hunter has a horse. In Germany a century ago, who could count.
[00:28:11] So, so you, um, could, could, uh, add up and could subtract and everything you could say. Uh, today it is July 31 and it is a Friday. Uh, what is August 10? What kind of day is August 10? And he would give the right day, uh, or you could say, uh, three times four, how much is that? And then he would tap his hoof 12 times and, uh, people were astonished and from fire and white, he came to see this horse, which was a magical horse, uh, until a psychologist, smart psychologist.
[00:28:48] Said, well, I’m going to test a horse in a different way. I’m going to put a curtain between the owner and the horse so that all, I can still ask all these questions, but the horse cannot see the owner and [00:29:00] all of a sudden ha hunts couldn’t do anything anymore was making big errors. He couldn’t do it. So it was a diff the physical body language of the owner.
[00:29:11] The owner was not giving him the answers that the owner was reacting to them. And so, so if, if hands, for example, needed to tap his hoof 12 times to give the right the answer, your honor would probably share it’s his position or not his head unconsciously. So this was all in conscious, but to honor would react to these outcomes.
[00:29:30] And, uh, so since that time we know that you have to be very careful when you’re test animals. You have to be sure that we are not queuing them one way or another, even, even unconsciously. And, uh, so clever Hans has now always was always brought up. If as soon as people find something interesting, like let’s say planning for the future in any way animal, they would say, could it be a clever hunt surfing?
[00:29:53] And so, as a result, we, as a result, very often be test animals. Without that we are present, we are maybe not [00:30:00] present, or we have sunglasses on. Our, um, we ha we have them work on a computer screen, so they don’t need to see us. Uh, so we, we have all sorts of ways of avoiding Nikolova Hunt’s effect. Um, but, uh, that was a very big deal.
[00:30:15] Aidan McCullen: [00:30:15] one of the reasons I bring that up Franz is a couple of weeks ago, we had rubbed Fitzpatrick on his books called the mom test, and basically what it is about. Asking questions about your product or your innovation, but essentially you’re avoiding the clever hands effect. You’re trying to avoid them telling you lies because they’re trying to please you to get rid of you.
[00:30:34] So you stop asking her their opinion. But, um, I, I want to build on this because I, it made me think of, do you remember Paul, the octopus, which was predicting the world cup results as well, but also this, you talk about this test when. The mother, for example, or the father is present when the child’s doing a cognitive test.
[00:30:55] Frans De Waal: [00:30:55] It’s a problem is when people have been comparing, let’s say chimpanzees with [00:31:00] children. I don’t know why they always look for children because an adult chaplaincy is really an adult chimpanzee, but it’d be comparing them as human children. And, and what they have done is they set up these tests where you, you show, for example, a child, a puzzle box, uh, and, uh, you showed them how to open the box and then you give the box to the child and see if they can do it.
[00:31:23] And so that’s how you test, for example, imitation in a child. Uh, and what they found in these particular experiments is that children can do a lot of things that the apes cannot do. Uh, and this was always proudly reported in the most prominent journals because everyone is always happy to hear that we can do something that animals cannot do, but to chimps were tested by humans, by human experiments in exactly the same way as the children.
[00:31:49] Uh, the big difference is that the children are dealing with their own species. Your chimpanzees are dealing with a different species. The children are being talked to [00:32:00] the chimps may be maybe we talk to them, but they don’t understand our language. I was going to sit on the lap of their mother. Um, the chimps are not sitting on the lap of anybody they’re models, maybe cuing them one way or another, even unconsciously.
[00:32:14] The chimps don’t have that benefit. So the tests are presented as identical tests that give different outcomes for chimps and children. But they’re actually totally different tests and end that people have been complaining about is this, this whole field of testing temperature by humans, a re when we set up imitation experiments with the chimps, we did attempt to Chimp.
[00:32:36] We had a Chimp who showed how to open a box and, and, and another temper could turn and watch. And then we would see how they would perform on the box. And what we found is that if a see itch, Tim parking, they pay a lot more attention. Now look more in tune is another Chimp. And, and they performed very well.
[00:32:54] And so did all these tests. Well, humans are the testis are problematic in some way.
[00:32:59] Aidan McCullen: [00:32:59] I’d love [00:33:00] to build on that because you tell us later on the book about crows and the ACL fable about filling the pitcher of water. And the reason I mentioned that is it’s kind of the opposite where chimps became very good at this test, but actually children, depending on their age, didn’t do so well on
[00:33:20] Frans De Waal: [00:33:20] a test.
[00:33:23] Jessica, you heard a vertical tube. And you put a peanut on at the bottom of it. And so a Chimp can not get the peanut out because the fingers don’t reach far enough into the tube and they could also not shake to tube and things like that. And what they found is that some of the chimps, not all of them, but some of them will walk to the waterfalls.
[00:33:44] It. Suck up a lot, a lot of water in their mouth and then go to the tube and spit the water into it so that the peanuts floats up and they can grab it and take it out. It’s a very, it’s very interesting that chimps can do that because no one [00:34:00] has been teaching that it’s certainly not based on learning.
[00:34:03] Um, they spontaneously find a solution. And when they presented to children, human children, the same problem in the same way. Yeah, there’s only a small percentage of children that does this. And so, um, the, the chimps I believe perform at the level of, of eight year old children, but for example, five-year-old children, uh, don’t, don’t do this very well.
[00:34:25] And so this is one of these tests of insight, you know, uh, where animals sync up a solution. Uh, and we have a lot of tests now and including tests on onwards. So, so it’s not even limited to the apes. It’s something that we can find in quite a few animals,
[00:34:40] Aidan McCullen: [00:34:40] maybe think of one of the. Blockers to innovation, which is this idea of functional fixedness.
[00:34:45] So a child might not see their mouth as a tool, or they certainly won’t see water as a tool, but this is what you’ve shown through. Again, observation that animals will use tools that we don’t [00:35:00] think of necessarily as tools.
[00:35:02] Frans De Waal: [00:35:02] Yeah. That’s the interesting thing. What does it look like? A tool of course. Uh, on the other hand, a Chimp who lives in a, in captivity, uh, in, in their, in their home cage.
[00:35:13] Usually don’t have a lot else than water and straw and a few other things. So, so the, the number of options that they have is very small compared to a child who lives in a home, for example, So then, then these, these few things that they have, they become very important to them. And so all these things need to be taken into account when you compare the intelligence of children and apes
[00:35:36] Aidan McCullen: [00:35:36] mentioning that again, that some of idea of, huh, that’s interesting.
[00:35:40] Those types of moments, which happen so much in your field, you shared the Eureka moment of German psychologist, Wolfgang cooler, and the chimpanzee cooler and the chimpanzee. Did I say it. Okay.
[00:35:56] Frans De Waal: [00:35:56] Interested in welfare and curlers. Interestingly, because he attacked the [00:36:00] behaviors. He was the first one to do so, so, so he had chimpanzees, he was a German psychologist.
[00:36:06] He had chimpanzees and he decided not to train them at all, but to give them, um, sticks and boxes and put a banana very high and then see what they would do. And the chimps would do nothing. They’ll do anything. Yeah, they would actually, some of the chimps would try to have him do the job. They would, they would take his hand and lead him to the, to where the banana was and see if he could get, so they were using him as a tool.
[00:36:32] Um, but, uh, but the chimps would sit around steroids the thing and they’ll do anything. And then after half an hour or whatever, one of his chimps would jump up. And grab the boxes and stack them and grab the stick and reach the banana. He called it an insight to Chimp had an insight. It had a sudden flash of sinking and had solved a problem in his head.
[00:36:56] Now the behavior is stay where they [00:37:00] still behave today, who cannot pronounce the name of Cola. They become all spastic about it because Cola was Colonel was the first one to say, animals can actually think they can solve a problem in their head. And now we have all these pieces of evidence for that. But he was the first one to do so.
[00:37:18] And so he’s actually the pioneer, I would say of animal cognition.
[00:37:22] Aidan McCullen: [00:37:22] One of the things I wanted to draw out of Kuda was how he said learning involved, committing a ton of what he calls stupidities and that showed that solutions kind of were carved out of the mistakes that we make, which is so important.
[00:37:38] And it’s so important in learning for humans as well. And we don’t. We allow children to make mistakes. Of course, when they fall, et cetera, et cetera. But as we grow older and as the world is changing as rapidly as it is today, we need to have more tolerance for stupidities in organizations, in order for people to learn.
[00:37:58] Frans De Waal: [00:37:58] do we actually allow children [00:38:00] to make mistakes? I, I see all these playgrounds where they put soft. Towels at the bottom so that when a child falls out of the climbing frame, she, she, or he falls on some sort of soft surface. I was never treated that way. We, we would climb into the stupidest things and get out.
[00:38:19] I got out and fall and. Open ourselves and be bleeding and whatever. And that’s how you learn actually, that you should be careful not to fall out of the saying. And the kids nowadays are so protected by the parents and by the environment that I’m not sure they learning the right things this way.
[00:38:36] Aidan McCullen: [00:38:36] I agree.
[00:38:37] And it’s one of the reasons when you read. Something that’s beyond your field. Like I did with this book and I got so much out of it. So many analogies, so many new neurons were firing and connecting, et cetera, but I wanted to build on this idea of, of learning. And you tell us here, and I haven’t heard this beautiful.
[00:38:56] Definition of cognition, cognition, you say relates to the kind of [00:39:00] information an organism gathers and how it processes and applies this information you continue. And you say without any reward or punishment, animals accumulate knowledge that will come in handy in the future from finding knots in the spring to returning to one’s birth, to reaching a banana, the role of learning is obvious, but what is special about cognition is that it puts learning in its proper place.
[00:39:24] Learning is a mere too. It allows animals to collect information in a world that like the internet contains a staggering amount of it. It is easy to draw in the information, swamp and organisms cognition, narrows down to information flow and makes it learn those specific contingencies that it needs to know given its natural history.
[00:39:45] That’s a huge statement. And I was totally struck by this because. In this world where we’re being overwhelmed with information, we have a huge amount of information [00:40:00] coming down the line, and I often wonder how that’s going to affect us. And I’d love. That’s not really a question. It’s more of a, a thought I’m sure you’ve had yourself.
[00:40:09] Frans De Waal: [00:40:09] Yeah. Um, it’s because we have all these series about animal intelligence, which all focused on. How they are capable of maximizing rewards, let’s say, and, and avoiding punishment at all this focus on, on reward and punishment. Uh, also as expressed by the behavior is also as expressed by starving the animals before the tests so that they are highly motivated to get rewards and things like that.
[00:40:40] I is a very interesting book. Um, you know, our planet of the apes, you know, the movies I’m sure. Uh, but recently re-read the original book, uh, of planet of the apes, which, which is actually more interesting, I would say than the movies and in that book. Humans land on a, on a planet where the [00:41:00] apes are in control and the humans end up in a cage and are being trained with sugar cubes by the apes to perform certain tasks.
[00:41:09] And each time the humans do something very smart. Like stacking boxes to reach food, for example, because they repeat the code and experiment on them. Each time the humans do something smart and the scientists are very skeptical, like, like real scientists, they are all ma maybe, maybe they’re, they don’t fully understand the task, but they, by accident, they perform to bell and stump.
[00:41:31] They try to minimize what the humans are doing because the humans are obviously very stupid creatures. And so, uh, that was very interesting to see reflections. On human intelligence made by apes in this case that were very similar to what I’m used to as the criticism of, of, of animal cognition
[00:41:49] Aidan McCullen: [00:41:49] and building on that back and forth between humans and animals.
[00:41:53] We talked about facial recognition and how animals have an unbelievable eye for human faces. And you [00:42:00] mentioned that the CRO experiment, for example, but I’d love if you expand on that in a second. But the reason I mentioned that is. I thought about this situation, we’re in this global pandemic and how people are wearing masks.
[00:42:12] Right. And. I thought that I wonder how that’s gonna affect children because, and this is one of the things about the evolutionary part. If a child is born into a situation or a hospital, or perhaps is around people wearing masks all the time, I often wonder how is that going to play out? I don’t know how long we’re going to be.
[00:42:31] I have to wear masks until we find a cure, et cetera, et cetera. But there’s a huge implication of this on, on behavior, whether it’s animal or human. Yeah,
[00:42:41] Frans De Waal: [00:42:41] and it of course interferes with face recognition. It already interferes with the face recognition software we have. Uh, and so, uh, that’s maybe a good thing in some ways mask really prevents face recognition.
[00:42:58] Let me tell you an interesting story. [00:43:00] Right. There was a chimpanzee female named Lolita, who I knew very, very well. And, uh, who left, um, the place where I worked and, and ended up in a very different location. And when I visited that other institution, there was 25 years later and I heard that Lolita was living there.
[00:43:21] I said, well, I need to visit her. And so, uh, I went to, uh, the area where she lived the sort of outdoor enclosure and I stood there and she absolutely did not respond to me. Uh, I had a mask on because everyone, this was a medical institution. Everyone had a mask on. And so, uh, she, she clearly didn’t recognize me, but when I, I said her name a few times, she immediately rushed forward.
[00:43:48] And so after 25 years, you recognize me by my voice. That was really interesting to me is that my eyes alone did not trigger the recognition. My voice.
[00:43:59] Aidan McCullen: [00:43:59] It’s [00:44:00] interesting, actually, because I heard. That in hospitals now, you know, when somebody’s going through an operation or et cetera, at the moment during the pandemic doctors are obviously kitted up, they look like space aliens with the amount of safety equipment that weren’t, but they’ve started putting pictures of themselves on their chest.
[00:44:18] So if the patient wakes up during, uh, you know, They, they don’t they’re disorientated. They don’t know where they are. At least they’ll recognize, Oh, that’s my doctor, et cetera. So it’s so baked into evolution that we need to recognize faces. But it’s interesting. You mentioned about Lelisa there because you mentioned about loose, angry birds experiments.
[00:44:38] Frans De Waal: [00:44:38] Yeah. The, um, the crows, apparently this was an on a campus under on the West coast. The cross was sometimes captured by scientists, uh, and then banded, I suppose, and released again. And, uh, the scientist who did the capturing, we are recognized by them. And so did these people that they could not [00:45:00] even walk around on the campus because all the crows.
[00:45:03] Which started yelling at them at the cars and the area. And apparently then the knowledge was transmitted to other crows because now even crows who had never been Oh, let’s just started yelling at them when they saw him. And so they could not really walk around. And, uh, they started to test, they started testing this outdoors, Halloween masks.
[00:45:26] So instead of showing their real face, when they captured them, they would show them a mask of Dick Cheney or something like that. And, uh, and, and that’s how they, they test it out if the crows could recognize, but cross the cross had a very good face recognition.
[00:45:40] Aidan McCullen: [00:45:40] Yeah, as you say, in the book, there was more of a reaction from the students with the Dick Cheney masks than there was from the birds,
[00:45:48] Frans De Waal: [00:45:48] just to this mechanized exchange too, but they had different, different reasons.
[00:45:54] Aidan McCullen: [00:45:54] I want, I want it in your great field of pathology. There is a great language and. [00:46:00] Some of this language is so useful for innovation in business. And I loved your thoughts on homology analogy and convergent evolution. I’d love if you shared these, what they mean on perhaps some examples of both.
[00:46:15] Frans De Waal: [00:46:15] Let me start with analogy.
[00:46:17] Analogy is when sinks are similar evolved in a similar way, but are not related to each other. So for example, the shape of a dolphin. And the shape of a fish are very similar, not because a dolphin derives from a fish because a dolphin actually derives from land. Uh, so, so it is an independent evolution which has come about because the dolphin and official live in the same environment.
[00:46:41] So they have the same streamlined, the bodies that you need to swim in the ocean. So that’s called an analogy or convergent evolution independently evolved homology. Is when sinks are related. Uh, and for that reason they are similar. So [00:47:00] her monitor, for example, my hand and the hand of a chimpanzee are almost identical because they are homologous.
[00:47:09] My hand is also very similar to let’s say the wing of a bat in the wing of the bat or the same bones as in my hand. Because they are homologous structures, even though the function of my hand is quite different from the wing of a bat. And so homology is when sinks are similar because they are related to each other.
[00:47:27] Uh, and for example, the facial expressions of humans are homologous with those of the primates that the prior chimpanzee has many muscles interface, just like we do and can make many different expressions and makes them under similar circumstances as us emotional circumstances. And so the facial expressions of the human and of the chimpanzees are homologous.
[00:47:49] Aidan McCullen: [00:47:49] One of the things I just wanted to share on this was it’s great way of thinking because your, your, your book and your work in the age of empathy as well, [00:48:00] I’ve read, and I’m going to read your other books as well, but I found that it’s paradigm shifting. So it helps us think differently. And. Business and innovation is homologous.
[00:48:12] So we tend to copy what went there before us, or we tend to copy people in our own fields, but because the digital and because of the internet, The walls between businesses are breaking down. So we need to think more analogous and actually look for similarities, best principles from other, other fields of learning, rather than just following in, in a, in a incremental pathway.
[00:48:36] I want to come back to something cause you, you dedicated a lot of time to tools. The tool usage is fascinating by animals and I found the use of tools toolkits in particular. Really fascinating, but more important than that. The logic behind tool use, for example, chimps fishing for termites were toolkits of sticks, just like Gibbons [00:49:00] do when they honed Honi and how chimpanzees cracking notes were carefully selected stole stones.
[00:49:06] And like you said earlier, we tend to treat all chimps the same, but. It takes a child champ longer to learn that skill of cracking North standard does, but it was the logic behind them that I thought was fascinating because if they crack notes, for example, the nutritional value or the energy energetic value from those versus chewing on leaves all day is much higher.
[00:49:28] And therefore it’s worth the effort
[00:49:30] Frans De Waal: [00:49:30] they young chimps learn to crack nuts is sort of interesting because it shows why. All this focus on reward and punishment is not really useful because they, a young Chimp will sit next to it. Mom, uh, moderate cracking nuts with stones. She has an anvil stone and a hammer stone, and she puts very tough nuts that you cannot crack otherwise.
[00:49:54] And then hit them with the hammer stone. And, um, the [00:50:00] young Chimp will start mimicking her movements, also collect stones and put them in the right position and collect nuts and bang them together for the first couple of years, I think at least three or four years. Uh, the young Chimp is not capable of cracking anything because it takes an enormous amount of force and coordination and they don’t have that.
[00:50:22] And so there’s a very long learning time where these young chimps are incapable of getting the reward side of the behavior. So it’s an unguided behavior that they’re showing while sitting next to mom doing exactly what she does, but. Not as efficient as he does. So that shows already that exploration and curiosity and trying to figure things out are what comes first.
[00:50:45] And the rewards of the behavior in this case, eating nuts is something that comes off and years later,
[00:50:52] Aidan McCullen: [00:50:52] the toolkits that were used were fascinating as well. So they didn’t. The chimpanzees didn’t come with just one stick, one tool to do the job. They [00:51:00] had multiple tools to do multiple jobs. It was like that they were a tradesman or tradeswoman coming to do a job in a house.
[00:51:07] Frans De Waal: [00:51:07] Yeah. There are chimps in Africa that, uh, hunt for, uh, underground aunts and, and in order to reach those aunts, they come usually with two sticks. One is, one is a stick that the drive into the ground to make a big hole. Uh, to reach the answer. And then the other stick is, is much more slender. That they descend into the hole to catch the ends and to pull them up.
[00:51:32] So they can’t miss two sticks, two different sticks with, for different purposes. And I’ve heard that that chimps who hunt for beehives, they come even with more tools, they need more than, than one kind of two kinds of tools. And certainly companies three or four of them.
[00:51:48] Aidan McCullen: [00:51:48] One final question. I thought Franz to bring it all together was you have studied evolution, essentially.
[00:51:55] And, and the behavior of animals through observation, et cetera. And [00:52:00] I often wonder where, where we’re headed from an evolutionary perspective as a race as well. So. For example, we’ve adopted from my reading of Richard Ryan’s work. For example, we adopted, once we discovered fire it’s fire was our first technology and it made us, we actually changed physically as a result of that new technology.
[00:52:20] Now we’re on the cusp of merging and converging technologies, 5g, and all these things, the amount of data that we’re going to consume, for example, but we’re also. Concurrently outsourcing more of our thinking, our cognition to machines. There’s a term called digital dementia, which is where I will tools.
[00:52:40] Like for example, remembering a phone number in the past. I don’t need to do that anymore. So my is going to change. And I just wonder
[00:52:47] Frans De Waal: [00:52:47] if we don’t meet. We don’t need to navigate anymore if you have machines doing it. Yeah.
[00:52:52] Aidan McCullen: [00:52:52] Yeah. And, and, and for example, there’s, there’s a famous taxi drivers study that showed that taxi drivers in the UK and London.
[00:53:00] [00:53:00] It’s a very complex route of, of roads, et cetera. So their brains, their hippocampus is actually evolved differently. It’s more activated differently. So I’d love. Just as a parting kind of thought, what are your thoughts for the future in this world of rapid change? From a technological perspective?
[00:53:16] Frans De Waal: [00:53:16] Yeah, I’m not sure.
[00:53:17] We, humans are still evolving in the sense that we are genetically changing because that’s what evolution would mean. Cause genetic change of the human species would only happen if there is. Um, is there pressure if the evolutionary pressures on this now the RFQ, I think certainly in, in the domain of immunology, Especially now that we have the virus crisis, you’re going to have people who die.
[00:53:44] Uh, and so there’s a selective pressure. Uh, and, and I think that that has happened with Ebola also in Africa is that there are certain people who survive. And who carry on and artists who die. And so in the, in the domain of [00:54:00] immunology, yes, we, I think we are still evolving. Um, there’s other things where we have removed the pressure.
[00:54:07] So for example, if you have poor eyesight in the old days, you would maybe walk into a lion, which was not a good thing. Uh, nowadays we have glasses on and so we will see the lion and be able to avoid him. And so, uh, Yeah. So, so we have removed the pressure, uh, by, by certain measures. There’s certainly medical, medical advances and, and, and solutions like hearing AIDS and, and, and, and glasses and so on.
[00:54:33] So evolution requires precious, selective, precious, and, uh, I’m not sure we have them. And so I’m not sure we will get on because we have all these smartphones nowadays. I’m not convinced of that.
[00:54:46] Aidan McCullen: [00:54:46] If there was a parting message that you wanted to leave from your work in case we don’t, I’d love to have you back on the show and talk about the age of empathy is such a beautiful book and probably more relevant than it ever was before highly [00:55:00] recommended, particularly in these times of polarized society, but a parting message for our audience, from your field for humanity.
[00:55:08] Frans De Waal: [00:55:08] Well, to say it in very general terms, I think. In my books on animal intelligence and animal emotions. What strikes me is that human philosophy, Western philosophy, especially has a major flaw and a flaw is that it has always emphasized how humans are special. It has always emphasized human exceptionalism.
[00:55:30] We are so different and we associate Perrier. And this is something that now in the crisis was the virus. And in the climate crisis that we have, and the extinction of lots of species in the world, we are seeing how this is coming back to bite us. The idea that we are different, that we are separate from nature, which also means we can do anything we want.
[00:55:52] We can eat a bat and it will be fine. We can destroy the ocean. It will be fine. We humans are the boss of the world, [00:56:00] basically. And this whole attitude that is present investment philosophy. And Western religion of course is now coming back to Biden. Yes. And we need a totally different way of thinking about ourselves and our environment is we are animals.
[00:56:15] We are not particularly different from other animals. We live in the same sort of global environment. We have to be careful with that environment and more respectful. And this whole emphasis on humans is unique and special and different and superior. I think it’s a flower of and philosophy. I often discuss syncs with philosophers, and of course there are many different opinions that are many philosophers who are.
[00:56:40] On the side of biology and neuroscience and so on and understand it. But there’s also many philosophers who act as if, still act as if humans are not animals, which I think is really problematic,
[00:56:52] Aidan McCullen: [00:56:52] beautiful message. In France, for people who want to find out more about you and your work and your books, where can they find you
[00:56:57] Frans De Waal: [00:56:57] books are available?
[00:56:59] I think there’s [00:57:00] at least a dozen books. And I also have a Facebook site with a. 600,000 followers. And so I often feature animal behavior there.
[00:57:09] Aidan McCullen: [00:57:09] I link to that in the show notes and a reminder that this show is brought to you by Microsoft, for sourdoughs author of, are we smart enough to know how smart animals are Franz the wall?
[00:57:20] Thank you for joining us.
[00:57:21] Frans De Waal: [00:57:21] You’re welcome.