Anecdotal cognitivism is a psychological theory and animal cognition term which entails attribution of mental states to animals on the basis of anecdotes, and on the observation of particular cases, other than those observations made during controlled experiments. It is opposed to behaviorism, where behaviorists are critical of anecdotal cognitivism, suggesting that controlled experiments are necessary to correctly measure stimuli and record observable behavior.
Anecdotal cognitivism is often criticized by behaviorists using specific cases, such as that of Clever Hans, to discredit using anecdotal evidence in assessing animal cognition. In the case of Clever Hans, a horse was purported to be able to add and subtract using its hooves, and even answer questions surrounding European politics, but it was determined by later research that the horse's owner was in fact unknowingly cueing the horse, and that when he was removed from the room, the horse would not respond.
Anecdotal cognitivists respond to behaviorists by saying that behaviorism would have the animals 'lose their minds', and that it is clear that by observation we can know a great deal about the cognitive processes of animals, and that the debate can start here, with simple observation, and not in a controlled setting or in a lab.
- Keeley, Brian L. (2004). "Anthropomorphism, primatomorphism, mammalomorphism: understanding cross-species comparisons". York University. pp. 527. http://www.yorku.ca/andrewsk/documents/Keeley_Anthropomorphism.pdf. Retrieved 2008-12-19.
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