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How To Learn Sign Language

Animal communication | Individuals and Society | MCAT | Khan Academy


– [Voiceover] When humans
communicate with one another, they tend to rely on a few things. So, first of all, we rely on language. We use it to communicate our
ideas, thoughts and feelings, and also to respond to the ideas, thoughts and feelings of others. We also use a bunch of nonverbal cues, so we smile when we’re happy,
we frown when we’re sad, we can tell if the people
around us are anxious or angry. And we also use visual cues. So if I painted every
room in my house black and blasted Metallica all day, I would be sending out different signals, different cues about myself, than if I was to paint
every room in my house pink and cover everything in posters
of ballerinas and unicorns. And other animals besides humans have ways of communicating as well. Maybe not with language per se, but with lots of different
nonverbal cues and visual cues. As well as many other
types of communication that aren’t used by humans. And while we’ll go over all
of those different types of communications in a separate video, I wanted to take a little
bit of time to talk about why animals communicate
and why this is necessary. So one question we might want to ask is, “Who are animals communicating with?” So some species of animals
might use different types of vocalization to communicate with members of the same species. But animals can also communicate with other animals that
are not in their species. So, for example, some types of frogs use really bright colors to signal that they’re toxic, which will let other animals
know not to eat them. And of course, animals can
also communicate with humans. Every morning my cats let me know when it’s time for me to
wake up and feed them. Or, at least, when they feel that I should wake up and feed them. But there’s also autocommunication, so animals can also use communication to give information to themselves, and that’s kind of a trickier one, but I think the best example
might be bats and echolocation. So bats send out a signal, and then when that signal bounces back, they’re able to gain information about the things in their environment. Alright, so animals can use communication to give information to themselves, to members of their same species, and also members of other species. But what type of information
are these animals trying to convey? What is the main function
of animal communication? Well, the first one
would be mating rituals. Animals can produce a multitude of signals as a way to attract the opposite sex. Some are really brightly colors, others do complicated dances, and some do specific verbal calls. Animals also use communication
to proclaim ownership or territory or to defend territory. So basically it’s a way of telling other animals to back off. And I had birds as pets in my
house when I was growing up, and my birds were extremely kind, they would sit on your shoulder, they would try to eat all of your food, and they were just
generally really social. When they laid eggs, they
got really territorial. They would basically try
to take your finger off if you got too close to them. Another function of animal communication
is food communication. So, signalling to other animals
where they can find food. There’s also alarm calls, or
cases where animals will try to warn others about the
presence of a predator. Animals can also use communication as a way to signal
dominance and submission. So, for example, after dogs fight, they might adapt different stances to indicate who came out on top. But one thing I want to make sure to say, before we actually go into really talking about all of the different
ways that animals can use to communicate, is that
I want to say that, while it’s clear that
animals do communicate, both which each other
and with us as humans, we need to be really careful that we don’t put too
much thought into this. We need to be careful
not to anthropomorphize, or attribute too many
human characteristics to nonhuman animals. So we can try to interpret
and try to ascribe meaning to the actions of animals, but we can never really be
certain that we are correct, because we can’t really ask the animals what they mean. So my cats sleep with me at night, and they usually sit with
me when I’m on the couch, and I would like to assume
that it’s because they love me and want to be with me, but it’s possible that they’re also only trying to keep physical contact with me because I produce a lot of body heat. And that it is that
motivation rather than love that explains my cats’ behaviors.

One Reply to “Animal communication | Individuals and Society | MCAT | Khan Academy”

  • Seriously, at this point anthropomorphising is not a danger, the danger now is thinking that animals don't share any common behavioural or emotional traits with humans.

    I mean is thinking that a dog experiences want or hunger or desire to be free from pain anthropomorphising? No, and yet if you get into conversations with otherwise normal people about animal ethics, you encounter all sorts of denial. Just take the ability of livestock to feel a varied bunch of emotions and sensations. You'd think they were brainless robots from listening to a significant group of people, scientists included. I guess it's easier to think that though when you're eating parts of their corpses.

    I would have been fine with the warning against anthropomorphising, if it also came with a warning not to underascribe motives and emotions to animals.

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