Anecdotal cognitivism is a psychological methodology that attributes 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; behaviorists are critical of anecdotal cognitivism, suggesting that controlled experiments are necessary to 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, they can know a great deal about the cognitive processes of animals. They add that the debate can start with simple observation, rather than in a controlled setting or in a lab.
Notable anecdotal cognitivists
- Keeley, Brian L. (2004). "Anthropomorphism, primatomorphism, mammalomorphism: understanding cross-species comparisons" (PDF). York University. p. 527. Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-19.
- Allen, Colin (1998) "Assessing Animal Cognition: Ethological and Philosophical Perspectives" Journal of Animal Science 76: pp. 42-47;
- Watson, Amy and Woodworth, Kristen (2000) "Animal Cognition" - outline of animal cognition;
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