Can animals pretend to be? And if so, why are they doing this?
The famous ethologist, Nobel laureate Konrad Lorenz called one of the chapters of the book “Man Finds a Friend” “Animals that Lie.” He argues that animals that have reached a certain stage of mental development have learned to pretend - and illustrates this statement with examples.
Can animals pretend to be?
Pet Conrad Lorenz Bulldog, having become aware and barking at the owner, did not get lost and ran further along the path, pretending that he did not bark at the owner, but at the neighbor's dog. A dog named Stacy learned to portray lameness, if during a bike ride with the owner he turned onto a road that she did not like. I am sure that any owner of animals can recall such examples from the life of pets.
By the way, Lorenz believed that a cat is an honest animal and does not know how to pretend. But the dog learned - and this proves that in the mental development of the dog stand above cats.
Whether you agree with the statement of the great scientist is up to you. But "pretenders" are not only among domestic animals, but also in the wild.
For example, anteater spiders have learned to abduct ants (which, as the name suggests, spiders feed) from anthills, but so that the ants do not suspect something was wrong. The fact is that, penetrating the anthill, the spider begins to move on six legs (like an ant), and holds two more on weight, like antennas.And when he catches and paralyzes the prey, he pretends to drag a comrade to the ant cemetery.
There are animals that can pretend to be dead, such as possums. Moreover, scientists have found that while the body of the possum very reliably resembles a corpse, its brain works at furious speeds. That is, pretense requires incredible intellectual effort and self-control.
In the photo: the possum is pretending to be dead. Photo: wikimedia.org
However, there are animals that, on the contrary, pretend to be healthy, even if they are sick. For example, horses, especially those living in the wild, hide the lameness to the last. After all, to show that you are sick and therefore vulnerable is to become a target for a predator.
Why are animals pretending to be?
If we take wild animals, everything is clear: pretense for them in the literal sense is a matter of life and death. If you don’t pretend, then they will eat you — or you won’t be able to eat and you will die too. What about pets? Why are they pretending to be? After all, they are not in danger of being eaten or starving to death!
Pets for many centuries and millennia of existence, side by side with people, have learned to adapt to us and have studied humans far and wide. And in a sense, they learned to train us no worse than we did them. And if the things that people call "pretense" are reinforced, why not use them?
However, do not blame everything on pretense. Before thinking, for example, that a dog is limping, “pretending to be” (because it has noticed that when it is limping, they treat it differently: they caress and feed it more tasty), you should still consult a veterinarian.
The pretense of our pets, even if it takes place, cannot be called manipulation in the negative sense that we usually put in this word. Simply, if a person rewards some behavior, it will be more likely to manifest itself.
And, in fact, it is the person who teaches the dog that what he calls “pretense” will be rewarded with attention and goodies. And the dog is glad to try to please his beloved master!