Animals think like humans, scientists declare

A group of leading scientists has publicly proclaimed that animals possess cognitive abilities similar to humans

On 7 July, prominent cognitive neuroscientists gathered at Cambridge University in the presence of Professor Stephen Hawking to announce The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness. The declaration summarises key findings in the area of animal cognition and makes “unequivocal” observations, meaning the findings can be regarded as scientific fact.

According to the scientists, animals possess the cognitive ability to assess situations based on prior experience, and then act accordingly. They also state that both humans and animals are emotionally aroused through the same brain regions, and that artificial arousal of such brain regions provokes similar emotional states and behaviour in both animals and human beings.

Birds also demonstrate striking levels of consciousness comparable to humans, with the declaration stating: “Birds appear to offer, in their behaviour, neurophysiology, and neuroanatomy a striking case of parallel evolution of consciousness. Evidence of near human-like levels of consciousness has been most dramatically observed in African grey parrots.”

Certain bird species have exhibited neural sleep patterns similar to mammals, and magpies in particular exhibit striking similarities to humans, great apes, dolphins, and elephants in experiments using mirror self-recognition.

The publicly proclaimed declaration concludes by saying: “The weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.