Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 69.djvu/142

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138
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY
FACT AND FABLE IN ANIMAL PSYCHOLOGY
By Professor JOSEPH JASTROW,
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN

MAN has ever been ready to show his esteem of animal ways, even to the veneration that in early times took the form of animal worship. The cunning and courage of animals, their passions and endurance, their keenness of sense and mastery of instinct, appealed to the man of nature as enviable qualities. The wolf that he feared, or the horse that be subdued was equally to him a fellow being. He was aware that the animal scent was truer, the animal sense of direction surer, than his own. Matching his wits against theirs, he knew that he might be outwitted by animal wile, might be overcome by animal daring. In his mythology he constructed beings endowed with superhuman qualities by fantastic combinations of the animal and the human form; and in his fables, from Æsop to B'rer Rabbit, he gave to his favorite animal the hero's part in his simple plots. He placed himself under the protection of some sacred animal as a totem, and held it as likely that the souls of an animal could be made to inhabit the bodies of a man, or that by some magic he could be transformed into their semblance.

It is quite possible that some obscure and disguised variety of this same instinctive feeling may still affect our estimates of what animals do, and of how they feel and think. We know so intimately how our domestic pets enter into the routine of our lives, share our moods and occupations, that it seems plausible to suppose that only a lack of speech prevents them from expressing a knowledge of our thoughts and sympathy with our feelings. But when we reflect upon the matter more soberly, we realize that we must not allow our prejudices to affect our judgment of what their behavior justifies us in concluding in regard to their intelligence. In considering what kinds of minds they have and how they use them, we must never forget how different are their needs from ours, how easily an action on their part may seem to be full of meaning to us (because if performed by us it would be done for definite reasons and purposes), and yet may be for them a rather simple trick to gain our favor. This, indeed, is the difficulty of the whole problem. We can judge what animals think only from what they do; yet what they really do may be wholly different from what they apparently do. It is we who unintentionally read into the action the meaning that it has for us. The way out of this difficulty is not very simple nor very direct; and it is the psychologist's business