Historical Introduction

  • M. E. Bitterman
Part of the NATO Advanced Study Institutes Series book series (NSSA, volume 19)


The study of animal intelligence was brought into the laboratory at the end of the nineteenth century, with Darwin’s theory of human evolution providing the principal impetus. The anatomical evidence alone was not convincing, Darwin (1871) conceded; evidence of mental continuity between men and animals also was required, which he found in the casual observations of hunters and naturalists, zoo-keepers and pet-lovers. Were animals capable of reasoning? A hunter named Colquhoun once “winged two wild ducks, which fell on the opposite side of a stream; his retriever tried to bring over both at once but could not succeed; she then, though never before known to ruffle a feather, deliberately killed one, brought the other over, and returned for the dead bird” (p. 46). A captive female baboon, scratched one day by a kitten which she had “adopted,” examined the kitten’s feet and promptly bit off the claws. It was anecdotal evidence such as this on which Darwin based his conclusion that there is nothing new in the mind of man — no characteristic or capability which is not shown also, at least in incipient form, by some lower animal.


Classical Conditioning Instrumental Conditioning Historical Introduction Sensory Precondition Omission Training 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. E. Bitterman
    • 1
  1. 1.University of HawaiiHonoluluUSA

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