Animal Minds at the Fife Science Festival

On the 7th and 8th of May we were taking part in the Fife Science Festival in Cowdenbeath.

We prepared a bunch of activities to get children and their families to think about animal minds and abilities – we had a sticker tasks in which participants chose their favourite animal, and placed it on a scale ranging from “has no mind at all” to “has a mind like we do”. We had great discussions about what makes an animal smart (camouflage, hunting, building nests?), whether instincts are innate or enhanced through learning, what the smartest animal might be (sea mammals, apes, chickens?), and whether some animals have feelings like empathy or guilt. We were blown away how creatively people thought about animal minds – and how many unanswered questions they are about animal thought.

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Not only did we talk about different animals and their abilities – we also brought some evidence: videos of tool use in rooks, chimpanzees, and bumblebees. Apes and dolphins recognising themselves in mirrors. Sophisticated spider webs and how they are used to catch prey. Ants that collectively manage to cross a river….

These videos were a great talking point to discuss how these abilities compare to human abilities, and how we can find answer to our questions empirically.

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After having enjoyed some fruitful debate, it was time to pick up the pens. We had a bunch of posters with different questions: “Do animals talk? What do they talk about?” – “Do animals have friends?” “Do they love?” – “Do animals understand what others think and feel?”. Many people answered our questions and shared their thought processes with us.

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We want to thank the team behind the Fife Science Festival – we had a brilliant time engaging with so many people!

PS: Over the two days, 1430 people came to visit the Festival! How amazing is that!

 

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