Thesis ID: CBB695035980

The Meaning of Meaning in Insect Navigation Research (2021)


Sterner, Beckett (Advisor)
Kelle Dhein (Author)

Sterner, Beckett
Arizona State University
Publication date: 2021
Language: English

Publication Date: 2021
Physical Details: 212

Getting clear about what behavioral scientists mean when they invoke content presupposing concepts, like information, is necessary for understanding how humanity’s own behavioral capacities do or do not relate to those of non-human animals. Yet, producing a general naturalistic definition for representational content has proven notoriously difficult. Some have argued that Claude Shannon’s formal, mathematically defined notion of information is the proper starting point for building a biological theory of content. Others have sought to define content presupposing concepts in terms of the historical selection processes that drive evolution. However, neither approach has produced definitions that capture the way successful researchers in the behavioral sciences use content-presupposing concepts. In this dissertation, I examine an ethological tradition of insect navigation research that has consistently ascribed content to insects. To clarify the meaning of such ascriptions, I analyze the practices scientists use to justify new attributions of content and the way new attributions of content guide scientists’ future research activities. In chapter 1, I examine a series of insect navigation experiments performed in 2006–2007 that led to a novel ascription of content. I argue that researchers ascribe content to insects’ navigation behaviors when those behaviors reliably accomplish a difficult goal-directed function. I also argue that ascriptions of content help researchers achieve their epistemic aims by guiding hypothesis formation and aiding comparative theorizing. In chapter 2, I trace the history of the experimental strategy analyzed aboveback to the work of Karl von Frisch in the early 20th century. I argue that von Frisch has a complicated and understudied relationship to the discipline of ethology. I support that argument by highlighting features of von Frisch’s research that both comported with and differed from the program of classical ethology. In chapter 3, I examine the cognitive map debate in insects. I argue that the debate stems from competing research groups’ endorsement of different norms for justifying claims about the dynamics of representational contents. I then situate these different norms historically to show how the cognitive map debate is a continuation of longstanding divisions within the history of animal behavior research.

Citation URI

This citation is part of the Isis database.

Similar Citations

Article Miles MacLeod; Nancy J. Nersessian; (2019)
Mesoscopic modeling as a cognitive strategy for handling complex biological systems (/p/isis/citation/CBB904044166/) unapi

Book Kenneth F. Schaffner; (2016)
Behaving: What's Genetic, What's Not, and Why Should We Care? (/p/isis/citation/CBB698038558/) unapi

Chapter Burkhardt, Richard W., Jr.; (2002)
The Founders of Ethology and the Problem of Human Aggression: A Study in Ethology's Ecologies (/p/isis/citation/CBB000359580/) unapi

Article Kirk, Robert G. W.; (2014)
In Dogs We Trust? Intersubjectivity, Response-Able Relations, and the Making of Mine Detector Dogs (/p/isis/citation/CBB001214610/) unapi

Book Paul Weirich; (2015)
Models of Decision-Making: Simplifying Choices (/p/isis/citation/CBB665668336/) unapi

Chapter Francesco Andrietti; Carlo Polidori; (2019)
Un'analisi storico-biologica delle indagini di Antonio Vallisneri e Diacinto Cestoni su vespe parassitoidi e galligene (/p/isis/citation/CBB541267973/) unapi

Article Hein van den Berg; (2020)
Theoretical Virtues in Eighteenth-Century Debates on Animal Cognition (/p/isis/citation/CBB446986848/) unapi

Article Deborah R. Coen; (2021)
The Experimental Multispecies Household (/p/isis/citation/CBB201138164/) unapi

Thesis Evan Arnet; (2023)
Entrenchment and Reflection in Science: Three Studies From Animal Behavior Research (/p/isis/citation/CBB548303720/) unapi

Book Antonella Tramacere; (2023)
Introduzione alle psicologie evoluzionistiche: L'origine della mente umana tra scienza e filosofia (/p/isis/citation/CBB137148303/) unapi

Book Eugenio Lecaldano; (2021)
Identità personale: Storia e critica di un’idea (/p/isis/citation/CBB940829141/) unapi

Chapter Jason G. Rheins; (2015)
Homo numerans, venerans, or imitans? Human and Animal Cognition in Problemata 30.6 (/p/isis/citation/CBB296492448/) unapi

Book Stefanie Buchenau; Roberto Lo Presti; (2017)
Human and Animal Cognition in Early Modern Philosophy and Medicine (/p/isis/citation/CBB021772520/) unapi

Book Gontier, Thierry; (2005)
Animal et animalité dans la philosophie de la Renaissance et de l'Age Classique (/p/isis/citation/CBB000610366/) unapi

Authors & Contributors
Andrietti, Francesco
Berg, Hein van den
Burckhardt, Richard W., Jr.
Coen, Deborah R.
Generali, Dario
Gliboff, Sander Joel
Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Indiana University
Cambridge University Press
Carocci Editore
Behavioral sciences
Human-animal relationships
Vallisneri, Antonio
Eibl-Eibesfeldt, Irenäus
Frisch, Karl von
Lehrman, Daniel Sanford
Leroy, Charles-Georges
Lorenz, Konrad
Time Periods
20th century
17th century
18th century
Early modern
19th century
21st century

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment