Thursday, March 22, 2012

Brain structure vs brain size as criterion for intelligence

Photo taken at Bandhavgarh tiger reserve, India, by Anthony Marr

There is a possibility that we may have placed the wrong bet on brain size as a measure of intelligence.

In my tiger preservation work, I've had lots of opportunities in observing tiger behavior. There is no question that as a predator a tiger is smart. After all, if not, it could not have survived the eons of hard knocks until today, just so that we big brained humans could stupidly do them in ourselves within a few decades.

As a predator so is a house cat smart, although at 25-30 grams, a house-cat's brain is only 10% that of a tiger's (about 280 grams) in size and weight. But as far as I can tell, tiger behavior and house cat behavior are not all that dissimilar.

Dogs offer a different illustration. Chihuahuas have much small brains than Great Danes, but tell Chihuahua guardians that their pooches are less intelligent, and they will bark right in your ear.

Now, compare dog brains vs cat brains, and dog behavior vs cat behavior, and it won't take the Dog Whisperer to conclude that the main difference is the structure of their brain, not the size.

The brain-weight-to-body-weight ratio may play a part, but apparently nowhere near brain structure as the central determinant of intelligence and behavior.

Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)

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