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Animal Intelligence Distribution

  1. Feb 14, 2017 #1
    My end goal is to extrapolate observed intelligences in the animal kingdom to determine whether or not it is statistically likely that a simulation argument is probable (though this could easily be used for the Fermi Paradox as well).

    Defining terms: "intelligence."
    Obviously all animals would fail an IQ test, but I have heard there are ways of determining intelligence. One being brain size. I am also aware of self-recognition in mirrors of primates, somewhat sophisticated languages amongst dolphins, and dogs' ability to shape the world around them, i.e. shake their head if a blanket is put over their head. What is/are common ways of comparing inter-species intelligence?

    Then, using this definition, are there any studies or results on the distributions? Specifically, what kind of shape (Bell, Poisson, skewed towards intelligence, etc.) do the distributions obey?

    Lastly, would intelligence be the highest deciding factor in the evolutionary cycle? Or is the need of a vertebrae or endoskeleton more influential in the overall evolutionary path? I understand this is probably the most speculative of the questions but I am unsure.

    Papers of the likes of https://arxiv.org/abs/0711.1751 would be most appreciated. I am also curious what and how others think about this.

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 14, 2017 #2


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    Probably depends on what you have in mind for the meaning of "evolutionary cycle". The fundamental drive of evolution is procreation and species survival. On that basis, the trilobites were WAY more successful than humans have been so far and it is at least possible that we will annihilate ourselves or possibly die out from some natural reason LONG before ever reaching the age as a species that they did.
  4. Feb 14, 2017 #3
    I think brain size was used as a measure some time ago but when animals were discovered with bigger brains than homo sapiens it was decided to use a brain to body-weight measure, the assumption being that we are the most intelligent of animals. Thus the whales are unseated from the top spot.

    The only way that I can see to evaluate the intelligence of animals in general is to give them problems to solve provided there is some common framework between us and them. Anthropomorphic problems arise though, some animals are particularly good at some tasks but would not appear to be that smart in general. The Portia spider, for example would seem to be a much better hunter than a dog, but doesn't keep you warm at night.

    As for intelligence and evolution; it seems to me that intelligence is a way of adapting to the environment quicker than evolution, and may even result in the ability to build our successors rather than breed them.
  5. Feb 15, 2017 #4
    I think that throwing a blanket over the head of a dog and then seeing if he/she shakes it's head is a good measure...

    No, you can't formulate a Poisson distribution on data that doesn't exist or is not reliable. And that is the state of the science at this point.

    I think phinds gave a good response to this question in post #2
  6. Feb 15, 2017 #5

    jim mcnamara

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    Staff: Mentor

    I've seen papers on the subject of encephalization quotient in mammals. That does not make it a wonderful tool, just one that has been proposed. See here for a discussion of that method and others:

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