The biggest difference between them and us is not that we can reason, and they can’t. If you want to see rational behavior, look at the dog. If you want to see emotional behavior, look at the owner.
Of course, some animals, other than humans, do reason. They have well-developed brains, are goal-seeking, and they acquire, store, retrieve, and process information. Research shows that other animals than humans also understand rules, i.e., that a series of events must happen in a particular sequence to produce a specific effect.
Animals of many species are capable of solving a wide range of problems that involve abstract reasoning. The problem is that most of our research projects into animal cognition have either been dominated by behaviorism—its conditioning methods almost turning animals into automatons—or have focused on particular human characteristics like speaking and counting.
The common depiction of the ladder of nature, on which the various species occupy successively higher levels, places humans at the top. However, animals have distinct kinds of cognitive processes depending on how they have adapted to their different ecological niches.
Which brings us back to Darwin—the difference between humans and other animals is “one of degree and not of kind.” (1871 in “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex.”)
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