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If Only They Could Talk!

Who Needs Words, Anyway?

Number Crunchers

Figure That One Out

No Fools About Tools

Thinking About Thinking

Viewer Challenge
in the classroom
TEACHING GUIDES


Animal Einsteins:
No Fools About Tools


Scientists and philosophers have long considered the ability to use tools unique to humans. This assumption was challenged in the mid-20th century when scientists began observing animals using tools in the wild. For example, chimpanzees use sticks to collect termites. In this story, watch a cotton-top tamarin put some lessons about tool use into practice.

Curriculum Links
National Science Education Standards
Related Frontiers Show and Activities
Activity: Define and Test Canine IQ
Extensions




CURRICULUM LINKS


BIOLOGY/
LIFE SCIENCE


primates

HUMANITIES/
LANGUAGE ARTS


 

PSYCHOLOGY


intelligence, problem-solving

TECHNOLOGY


tools




NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS

SCIENCE AS INQUIRY / LIFE SCIENCE
5-8: Structure and Function in Living Systems, Reproduction and Heredity, Regulation and Behavior, Diversity and Adaptations of Organisms
9-12: Behavior of Organisms
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
5-8,
9-12:
Abilities of Technological Design, Understandings About Science and Technology
HISTORY AND NATURE OF SCIENCE
5-8: Science as a Human Endeavor, Nature of Science
9-12: Science as a Human Endeavor, Nature of Scientific Knowledge




RELATED FRONTIERS SHOW AND ACTIVITIES



ACTIVITY: DEFINE AND TEST CANINE IQ

Scientists and philosophers have pointed to tool use as one of the significant behaviors that distinguish humans from other primates. Researchers have found evidence of crude tools being used by Homo habilis two million years ago. Today, recent findings about animals' use of tools have added to the debate over what constitutes intelligence.

Scientists have long argued about what intelligence is. Once they agree on a definition of intelligence, they can design experiments or questionnaires to measure it.

In this activity, you'll attempt to define intelligence in dogs, then design a questionnaire to collect data and determine the breed of dog with the highest intelligence.


PROCEDURE

PART 1: DEFINE INTELLIGENCE IN DOGS

  1. As a class or group, brainstorm characteristics of intelligence in dogs. (Examples might include: understands voice commands, understands hand signals.) List as many ideas as you can on the board.

  2. Discuss the list when it's complete. Delete any characteristics that are not agreed upon by the majority. From the remaining list, vote for the top 10 characteristics that students want to test.

  3. Using the top 10 list, formulate questions that will let you rate how a specific breed of dog measures up. Make sure the questionnaire has a space to enter breed and source of information. The following sample questions are adapted from the September 1997 issue of Dog Fancy magazine:

    Please rate the following on a scale from 1 (never) to 6 (always):
    • Does this breed understand voice commands?
    • Does this breed understand hand signals?
PART 2: COLLECT AND ANALYZE DATA
  1. You can collect data in a variety of ways. For example, you can ask classmates with different breeds of dogs to fill out the questionnaire, or you can call local veterinarians and dog trainers, or use the Web to research different breeds.

  2. Average the ratings for each breed based on the questionnaires and rank the breeds you researched from highest score (most intelligent) to lowest (least intelligent).

  3. Once you have researched and ranked the breeds, visit the following website, which lists breeds from most to least intelligent, to see how your dog IQ list compares: www.petrix.com/dogint/intelligence.html.
QUESTIONS

  • Was it difficult to agree on a definition and a way to measure intelligence? Why?

  • If you own a dog or know of a dog that does tricks, compare the dog's performance with that of Clever Hans, the horse discussed in the introduction to this show. Why is it critical to avoid giving clues in real experiments?

  • The tamarin in this story was trained to use "tools." Unlike chimps, tamarins have not been observed to use tools in the wild. What do you think is a truer measure of learning -- the ability to repeat a trained or learned skill or the ability to apply what one has learned to other situations or environments? Do you think the tamarin would be able to apply any of its training to its life in the wild? What's the difference between using and making tools? Explain.



EXTENSIONS

  • Think of all the domestic and wild animals you've ever known or observed. Can you think of any behavior that might be considered using tools? For example, if a cat wakes up its owner every morning by knocking something on the floor, is the cat using a tool, or just repeating effective behavior? What does it mean to use a tool? What about tool use and invention distinguishes humans?

  • Do you think intelligence varies within a specific breed of dog? What might cause this to happen?

  • Design an IQ test for cats and other animals to see how they rate. Can you compare different species?

  • Think of animals you or your friends have had as pets, or animals you've observed outdoors. Have you ever described one of these animals as "smart" or "intelligent"? What about the animal's behavior made you describe it as more intelligent than others?

  • What do you think is a true measure of intelligence in humans and nonhuman animals? Do you think humans are more intelligent than other animals? If so, does our human intelligence make us superior?

  • Research the findings by paleontologists and archaeologists about the use and manufacture of tools by our ancestors.





 

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