Bio-Socio/Anthropo English
Social Intelligence and the Validity of Scientific Testing
2018-12-31 10:35:56
Tobin Reznor

[리서치페이퍼=Tobin Reznor 기자] It has long been an investigative preoccupation in the scientific community that seeks a thorough understanding of the nature of human intelligence. Researchers have spent many decades toiling over questions about human intelligence, its genetic inherence, and a myriad of other commonly misunderstood things. A team of researchers, however, has published a new article in the bio-sociological journal, Animal Cognition, which the researchers have entitled, “The Mismeasure of Ape Social Cognition.” The article asserts that the social intelligence of apes, chimps, in particular, has been repeatedly underestimated due to apes being tested in situations fundamentally different from those where children are tested and with whom apes have been historically compared in such studies.

The titular reference in the article is to Stephen Jay Gould’s 1981 book, The Mismeasure of Man. It was and remains a considerably controversial book, as is its subsequent correction. It sparks interdisciplinary debates in anthropology, biology, philosophy, and psychology. It has also illustrated how directly intertwined science is with matters of social justice and civic discourse.

Kim A. Bard from the University of Portsmouth collaborated with William D. Hopkins of Georgia State University, and the lead psychologist on the study was David A. Leavens from the University of Sussex. They write, “All direct ape-human comparisons that have reported human superiority in cognitive function have universally failed to match the groups on testing environment, test preparation, sampling protocols, and test procedures.”

In other words, some of the factors that muddle these experiments can yield mortal consequences. They easily rob scientific conclusions of their reliability, and the testing protocols are vastly different between human children and apes. In fact, the contrast is of such scope that it leaves no possibility of isolating evolutionary history as the X-factor to explain differences in social cognition.

The team used Gould’s infamous 1981 text as a template for drawing their own conclusions about the ways that the social intelligence studies conducted on apes have been historically just as improperly executed as any of the plethora of old White supremacist studies that found human intelligence to be genetically determined and that Whites were genetically predisposed toward a higher echelon of intellect.

The argument of the study is that a narrow majority of human beings inherit intelligence from the mother, whereas the scientific community maintains that it is incalculably impossible for all the genes that contribute to intelligence be inherited from the mother. The study finds several genes on the X-chromosome that could potentially impact intelligence, and given that men have only a single X-chromosome, the research team was able to surmise that intelligence may correlate more with mothers than fathers for men.

The genes one inherits from a parent can sometimes be preferentially suppressed as a result of genetic imprinting according to the new study. This, in particular, is one of the primary assertions in the study that many experts would like to see supported with further evidence from future research. The study also finds, however, that mitochondria come almost entirely from the mother, though mitochondrial genes are rarely viewed in the context of affecting intelligence. Even so, brains require copious, metabolic energy to function optimally, and mitochondria are directly responsible for supplying that energy. As such, the study suggests that they likely bear some correlation to the efficiency of brain function, too.

“Human one-year-old infants were compared with a group of apes that were, on average, 19 years old (a sampling confound). In this study, there was a test phase in which the participants could ask a distant experimenter to replenish a cache of toys (humans) or food (apes—another confound),” relates Leavens, describing a 2014 study, where chimpanzees and children were compared and contrasted. The team’s conclusion “was that if a participant stayed where they were, without moving, then this indicated that the participant possessed an appreciation of the psychological state of the common ground."

“Astonishingly, the humans were tested at distances of .95 meter and 1.8 meters between themselves and the experimenter, but the great apes were tested at distances of about 6 meters,” Leavens continued. “It turned out that about half of the human babies communicated about the distant toys without moving from their original places, whereas none of the apes did so; all of the apes locomoted the full distance to the experimenter and communicated about the food from that position.”

The question, of course, this leads experts to wonder whether or not the apes understood the common ground they shared with the experimenters, and the study authors concede that no viable conclusion can be reached on the matter due to testing factors being wildly aberrant. “We found that, like the human babies, about half of the chimpanzees who communicated, communicated from a distance. So, a simple tweak of distance rendered similar response profiles between humans and apes, notwithstanding a number of other key differences” between the new study and the 2014 research.

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