Philosopher-Led Team Explores Name Use By Non-Human Animals

“Proper names play powerful social roles in human societies, such as promoting social cohesiveness, enhancing individual flourishing, and serving as a tool for social exclusion. Could other animals who live in complex social groups and have sophisticated communication systems also use these kinds of labels?”

That’s the question at the heart of a project led by Carrie Figdor, professor of philosophy at the University of Iowa that will focus on name use by bonobos and dolphins. “Establishing such proper naming would be a major step in understanding the transition to metacognitive functions, such as theory of mind and perspective taking, necessary for certain forms of intelligence,” she writes.

The project was recently awarded a $234,000 grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation as part of its “Big Questions” funding.

The research team includes psychologists, and experts in primates and cetaceans.

You can learn more about the project here.

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