Dennett, Darwin, and Skinner crowsEvolutionary Psychology 3: 179-207
The central theme of this paper is the scientific viewpoint taken for understanding behavioral processes. Two classical viewpoints are formulated by Dennett (the intentional stance) and Tinbergen (Tinbergen’s four questions). In this paper we argue that the two different viewpoints are linked to the two different processes that underlie complex behavior, namely, the instruction process and the selection process. To zoom in on the similarities and differences between these processes, we model whelk dropping behavior of Northwestern crows as observed by Zach (1978, 1979) from the two different viewpoints: (1) with crows that possess intentional faculties (called Dennett crows), and (2) with crows that possess selectional faculties. The latter type of crows is further divided into a population that is able to adapt over generations only by natural selection (Darwin crows), and a population that, apart from natural selection, is also able to adapt using operant learning (Skinner crows). Salient outcomes are that these two populations need markedly different times to adapt to changes in the environment, and that operant learning needs a value system that is an internal equivalent of the fitness criterion. In conclusion, we propose that understanding behavior should start at a meta-level with identifying whether the nature of the behavioral process under study is intentional or selectional.
behavior, prediction, explanation, stance, instruction, selection, intention, rationality, fitness, adaptation, evolution.