If you own a pet, you may have wondered if animals can communicate with us. We know that they communicate with each other through body language and behaviors such as mating rituals. They use color, sounds, touch and chemicals to send messages.
Some believe that it’s possible to communicate with animals through telepathic communication. What other research paper topics relate to the study of animal communication?
Animal communication is a term used to describe the process in which one animal transmits information to another animal. While some think that communication is unique to humans, the process of exchanging signals, intentionally or unintentionally, is also an integral part of the life of other animals.
Humans place ourselves at the top of the evolutionary tree because we have a spoken language. Michele Bishop explained the four elements of language in her TED Talk, “Do animals have language?”
The four qualities of language are:
- Discreteness: individual sounds or words that can be combined to communicate
- Grammar: rules that dictate how to combine words
- Productivity: use language to create an infinite number of messages
- Displacement: the ability to talk about past, future, or fictional events
No animal species exhibits all four qualities. Even impressive exceptions such as dolphins and Washoe, the chimp (who learned sign language) cannot compare to the language capabilities of a three-year-old human.
“It may turn out that human language and animal communication aren’t entirely different but exist on a continuum. After all, we are all animals,“ Bishop stated.
Why animal communication?
Why bother with the question of animal communication? Daisie and Michael Radner study animals in order to learn more about human nature. But the ability to communicate implies consciousness and that idea has proven to be challenging for both biologists and philosophers alike.
In their book, Animal Consciousness, Daisie and Michael Radner challenged the doctrines that have hindered the study of animal communication. These doctrines are all grounded in the belief that consciousness and thinking go hand-in-hand and animals can do neither.
The idea that consciousness in animals is beyond comprehension is usually traced to the 17th-century philosopher Rene Descartes whose concept of animals as beast machines lacking consciousness influenced arguments for more than 200 years. Thanks to the work of Charles Darwin, nowadays the prevailing view is that animals have mental processes, but these processes can be studied without addressing the idea of consciousness.
“Once it is accepted that man is part of the evolutionary scheme, the complexity of human mental functions, plus similarities between human and animal neurologies, can be used to argue claims about animal minds and consciousness,” the authors said.
How animals communicate
Animals have their own methods of communication. Although they lack the attributes of language, animals are effective communicators in their own environment.
Animal-to-animal communication methods include:
- Some animals such as the cuddle fish can change color to warn off other fish.
- Many animals use their scent to mark territory.
- Bees perform a dance to communicate the location of a food source.
- Birds sing to mark territory and attract a mate.
- Ravens and other birds can remember the face of a human who harmed them and can communicate that information to other birds in the flock.
- Dolphins and whales use sounds to signal each other over long distances.
On the other hand, human-animal communication efforts have met with mixed results. Some of the most intriguing work has been done by Denise Herzing whose work with dolphins has led to the development of a wearable human-to-dolphin communication device called Cetacean Hearing and Telemetry (CHAT.)
Herzing believes that if we can find success in communicating with different species on our own planet that one day we may have the opportunity to use this knowledge to communicate with creatures from another planet.
Do you believe that human-animal communication is possible? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.