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Stories by William Skaggs

Can Whales and Dolphins Make Mental Maps?

The brains of cetaceans--dolphins and whales--differ from those of other mammals in a number of ways, but one of the most striking differences is the size of the hippocampus.  As a general rule, the larger the size of a mammal’s brain, the smaller the fraction of it that the hippocampus occupies, so dolphins and whales [...]

April 24, 2014 — William Skaggs

How Could We Recognize Pain in an Octopus? Part 2

A few days ago I posted a discussion here of the problem of determining whether an animal such as an octopus has genuine pain. I claimed that the most common way of thinking about pain—the idea that we attribute pain to other species to the extent that they resemble ourselves—does not really account for the [...]

September 26, 2013 — William Skaggs
How Could We Recognize Pain in an Octopus?

How Could We Recognize Pain in an Octopus?

At the level of personal experience, there is nothing that seems easier to understand than pain. When I jam my finger in a doorway, I have no difficulty at all recognizing the sensation that results.

September 20, 2013 — William Skaggs
Snarks and Boojums

Snarks and Boojums

Lewis Carroll had a gift for framing the thorniest issues in the simplest terms. For example in this passage from Alice in Wonderland: When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether [...]

August 31, 2013 — William Skaggs
The Psychology of Freedom

The Psychology of Freedom

I’d like to examine the concept of freedom in a somewhat unusual way — from the viewpoint of motivational psychology. The starting point is to realize that there are basically four ways of influencing behavior: reward, punishment, restraint, and compulsion.

August 20, 2013 — William Skaggs