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What allows us to ask the question

  1. Oct 6, 2013 #1
    What allows us to "ask the question"

    I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that animals such as cats, dogs and monkeys all think about stuff but can they ask themselves questions.

    For example cats spend most of their time outside, they're out when it's light, and out when it's dark, but what stops a cat from thinking 'why is it dark?' or 'what is that orange thing in the sky?'

    When it rains I know my dog likes to sit in the armchair and look out the window, I find it hard to to think that a dog is incapable of thinking 'why is it raining or what is that water, where is it coming from'

    Some of you might think this is a stupid thread as you already know the answer, you'll probably tell me conciousness but is there a part of the brain which we have that animals don't, or a part of the brain which is much more complex?

    I always thought that the ability to ask a question is what seperates intelligent animals from non-intelligent. Simply thinking of a question on your brain will lead you think derive a possible solution.

    Or do animals simply not think? That can't be true because animals make decisions and those decisions must be based on thoughts or ideas rather than pure instinct.

    Sometimes my cat goes to the back door, sometimes it goes to the front door, the back door leads to lots of other gardens while the front door doesn't Something must spark the cats decision on which door to want to go out from.
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  3. Oct 6, 2013 #2


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  4. Oct 6, 2013 #3


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    How do you define thinking? Do you mean the phenomenological experience of thinking or some objective description of it?
  5. Oct 6, 2013 #4
    I'm not actually sure what different types of thinking are... I sort of mean curiosity. I don't think you can be curious about something without first asking a question to yourself, which you later find the answer to once you act upon your curiosity.

    I guess it's like a baby in that kind of way, obviously babies can't think in words or construct any sort of logical thoughts but nevertheless if they didn't think, they wouldn't learn anything. I wonder if it's the same for animals, for example I can hold a ball in my hand, move it around my back quickly and show my dog my hands, never does it occur to her to look behind my back.

    The same with a baby, they're incapable of thinking 'where did the ball go' and they simply know that the ball is no longer in my hands, and that's it end of thought.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2013
  6. Oct 6, 2013 #5


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    That specific phenomena is called "object permanence".


    Though it's hard to know what is going through a dog's mind... can't they smell it? Maybe they think the smell is just on you from handling it? I'm not sure how reliable our inference is about what animals are thinking.

    But there's probably a little "theory of mind" in there too:


    Curiosity, I think, is more abstract. Certainly animals exhibit curousity behaviorally. Hard to know what they're thinking. The best we can do is look at our brain while we're thinking and compare homologous brain regions. For instance the Macaque has a homology to our Wernicke's are and Broca's area that they use for calls:


    Malfunctions in Wernicke's and Broca's areas are thought to play a role in schizophrenia, too, with respect to hearing voices. Usually when you do things, your brain subtracts part of your own stimulus on yourself (so you sound quieter to yourself when you talk, you can't tickle yourself, etc). The theory goes that in audio hallucinations in shizophrenia, that feedback may be broken so that the person is generating inner dialogue, but doesn't realize that it's themselves.

    So, I guess, if this is any insight on inner dialogue, it's something that seems to have really reached the pinnacle in humans. I don't know if there's any similar homology in cats and dogs.

    I agree with you that dogs often like like they could be experiencing some kind of "stream of consciousness". But we're still not really that great at characterizing thought in humans, or isolating it from abstract processing tasks and other functions that may have little to do with what we experience consciously.
  7. Oct 7, 2013 #6
    Thanks for the answers.
  8. Oct 8, 2013 #7
    One of my sisters has psychotic episodes in which she hears Jesus talking to her and it's a completely different experience than "hearing" her own interior voice. Her own interior voice is like anyone's: it's not 'physically' audible to her. "Jesus," on the other hand, sounds like an external spoken voice to her, it's male, and seems to come from a source about a foot away from one of her ears (I don't remember which one, but it was always the same side).

    Chris, the schizophrenic guy who used to live in my building, had several different voices that spoke to him. They were all distinct from his own interior voice, all 'physically' audible, as if spoken by people he simply couldn't see for some reason. One of Chris' voices, incidentally, was female.

    I asked them both how real these voices sound, and they both said as real as my voice sounded. Chris had a harder time trying to explain the source of the voices, but he perceived them with his ears, and had, several times, boxed his own ears trying to deafen himself so he wouldn't be able to hear them anymore. A lot of people who hear voices resort to ear phones and very loud music to drown them out.

    Anyway, I've read a awful lot of similar reports. The voices are so unlike the person's own internal voice that the theory they've lost the ability to recognize their own doesn't hold water. They're pure and simply hallucinating other voices.
  9. Oct 8, 2013 #8


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    They're not mutually exclusive. It's not that they can never know their own voice. It's probably context dependent and depends on how the content is generated. Schizophrenics do display "impaired self monitoring" , but they're not impaired 100% of the time. It's just an increased likelihood that each event will be misattributed to external sources.

    For instance:






    more on the impaired self monitoring of shizophrenia:
  10. Oct 8, 2013 #9


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    Totally not my field but to throw it out there my internal monologue changes "voice" all the time.
  11. Oct 8, 2013 #10


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    As a specific example, sometimes I'll criticize myself in other people's voices in the same way they would in tone and word-choice (and choice of criticism). Sometimes I'll have arguments with them. :redface:
  12. Oct 9, 2013 #11
    Man, you're completely nuts. Just kidding.

    If we suppose the same dynamic is going on in psychosis with auditory hallucinations, then the sufferer would be switching back and forth, recognizing his/her own internal voice but hallucinating an external source for the adversary in the argument. The problem is still not one of defective self-monitoring, though, it's a problem of hallucination. As far as they're concerned the information they're receiving is coming through their senses as it normally does. It's received in every way just as a real voice is received. The imagined criticism/rebuttal accounts for the content of the hallucination, but not the fact of the adversarial voice sounding real.

    I don't see where defective self monitoring would lead to anything but complaints of thoughts they can't account for. That certainly happens, and the term for it is "Thought Insertion." The sufferer believes thoughts are being inserted into their mind from the outside. There's a big difference between that, though, and the hallucination of a disembodied voice speaking to you. It's like the difference between obsessively thinking about a 10 foot tall white rabbit all day long and actually seeing one following you around all day long.
  13. Oct 9, 2013 #12


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    Mine too. I get both genders and lots of different accents.

    I've read that the voices schizophrenics hear sound like they are coming from a radio nearby.
  14. Oct 10, 2013 #13
    I have 12 and they are pretty much constant, I don't argue with them though...they just do it among themselves...I feel left out sometimes...I am definitely nuts.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2013
  15. Oct 10, 2013 #14


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    When I discuss things with myself I have to spell my thoughts out, but I know what the other me wants to say in a blink. That typically means I skip his lines - as I already know what he wants to say, they are just boring, and my answers are much better than his unfounded criticism.
  16. Oct 12, 2013 #15


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    I feel so alone right now. No one is talking to me that I can hear through my ears.
    I have thoughts but I don't hear any distinct voice.
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