Animal Sonar pp 683-690 | Cite as

Cognitive Aspects of Echolocation

  • Donald R. Griffin
Part of the NATO ASI Science book series (NSSA, volume 156)


Echolocation is an active mode of perception. Rather than passively waiting for information to arrive at its sense organs, an echolocating animal emits probing signals and listens for important information supplied by the resulting echoes. A comparably active process is the electric orientation that has independently evolved in several groups of fish. They also broadcast informative energy and gather important information by sensing alterations in the electric fields in which they find themselves. What we might call “active perception” of this sort requires that the brain must both generate the appropriate type of probing signal, which often differs according to the animal’s situation, and then selectively process the raw afferent input from its receptors to obtain the information needed at the moment. This amounts to a sort of dialog between the animal and its environment. Furthermore such active probing for important information suggests spontaneous control by the animal of its own behavior, rather than a set of fixed and automatic responses to external stimulation.


Blind People Animal Cognition Sonar System Toothed Whale Animal Consciousness 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Gould, J. L., 1986, The locale map of honey bees: Do insects have cognitive maps? Science, 232: 861–863.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Griffin, D. R., 1958, “Listening in the dark, the Acoustic Orientation of Bats and Men,” Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn. (Reprinted by Cornell Univertsity Press, 1986, with preface by J. A. Simmons).Google Scholar
  3. Griffin, D. R., 1984, “Animal Thinking,” Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.Google Scholar
  4. Griffin, D. R., 1985a, The cognitive dimensions of animal communication,Pp. 471–482 in: “Experimental Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, in Memoriam Karl von Frisch 1886–1982,” B. Hölldöbler and M. Lindauer eds., Gustav Fischer (Fortschritte der Zoologie 32), New York.Google Scholar
  5. Griffin, D. R., 1985b, Animal consciousness, Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 9: 615–622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Griffin, D. R., Friend, J. H., and Webster, F. A., 1965, Target discrimination by the echolocation of bats, J. Exptl. Zool., 158: 155–168.Google Scholar
  7. Midgley, M., 1978, “Beast and Man, the Roots of Human Nature” Cornell University Press, Ithaca, N. Y.Google Scholar
  8. Midgley, M., 1983, “Animals and Why they Matter,” University of Georgia Press, Athens, Ga.Google Scholar
  9. Miller, L. A. and Degn, J., 1981, The acoustic behavior of four species of vespertilionid bats studied in the field, J. Comp. Physiol., 142: 67–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Moehres, F. P., and Oettingen-Spielberg, T., 1949, Versuche über die Nahorientierung und das Heimfindevermogen der Fledermäuse,Verhandlungen der deutschen Zoologen in Mainz, 1949 pp. 248–252.Google Scholar
  11. Nagel, T., 1974, What is it like to be a bat? Philos. Rev., 83: 435–450. (Reprinted in Nagel, T., 1979, “Mortal Questions,” Cambridge University Press, New York).Google Scholar
  12. O’Keefe, J., and Nadel, L., 1978, “The Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map,” Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  13. Porter, F. L., 1979, Social behavior in the leaf-nosed bat Carollia perspicillata II. Social communication, Z. Tierpsychol., 50: 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Rice, C. E., 1967a, Human echo perception, Science, 155:656–664.Google Scholar
  15. Rice, C. E., 1967b, The human sonar system, in: “Animal Sonar Systems,” R-G. Busnel, ed., Laboratoire de Phsyiologie Acoustique,Jouy-en-Josas, France:Google Scholar
  16. Roitblat, H. L., Bever, T. G., and Terrace, H. S., (eds.), 1983, “Animal Cognition,” Erlbaum, Hillsdale, N. J.Google Scholar
  17. Suga, N., and Schlegel, P., 1972, Neural attentuation of responses to emitted sounds in echolocating bats, Science, 177: 82–84.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Suga, N., and Shimozawa, T., 1974, Site of neural attenuation of responses to self-vocalized sounds of echolocating bats, Science, 183: 1211–1213.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Supa, M., Cotzin, M., and Dallenbach, K. M., 1944, “Facial vision.” The perception of obstacles by the blind, Am. J. Psychol., 57: 133–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Surlykke, A., and Miller, L. A., 1985, The influence of arctiid moth clicks on bat echolocation; jamming or warning ? J. Comp. Physiol., 156: 831–843.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Terrace, H. S., 1983, Animal Cognition, Ch. 1 in: “Animal Cognition” H. L. Roitblat, T. G. Bever, and H. S. Terrace, eds., Erlbaum, Hillsdale, N. J.Google Scholar
  22. Tolman, E. C., 1948, Cognitive maps in rats and men, Psychol. Rev., 55: 189–208.Google Scholar
  23. Walker, S., 1983, “Animal Thought,” Routledge and Kegan Paul, London.Google Scholar
  24. Wasserman, E. A., 1983, Animal intelligence: Understanding the minds of animals through their behavioral “ambassadors,” Ch. 3 in: “Animal Cognition,” H. L. Roitblat, T. G. Bever, and H. S. Terrace, eds., Erlbaum, Hillsdale, N. J.Google Scholar
  25. Webster, F. A., and Griffin, D. R., 1962, The role of the flight membranes in insect capture by bats, Anim. Behay., 10: 332–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Webster, F. A., 1967, Some acoustical differences between bats and men, Pp. 63–88 in: “Proc. Intl. Conference on Sensory Devices for the Blind,” R. Dufton, ed., St. Dunstan’s, London.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald R. Griffin
    • 1
  1. 1.The Rockefeller UniversityNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations