A Controlling Cat

[From Fred Nickols (2007.06.11.1545 ET)] --

I have a cat that insists on sitting almost on top of my mouse pad - right
next to my laptop.

My home office has a large workstation that occupies two walls of a small
room in the finished basement. My laptop sits in a pullout drawer in the
angle of the L. To either side, there are work surfaces. The cat walks
down the work surface to my left, around the front of my laptop, and down
onto the pullout surface where my laptop and mouse sit.

So, today, I blocked her access. I placed a typing stand on the work
surface to my left. She yowled a few times and then paced the floor.
Finally, she jumped up the way she usually does, walked down the work
surface to the point where I had blocked her access, then jumped onto the
arm of my office chair and back up on to the work surface. She went around
my blockade (kicking her hind legs as she did so as if to say, stick your
freakin' easel you know where).

Looks to me like a good example of PCT at work in a cat controlling for her
access to one of her favorite spots. It's also a good example of an animal
solving a problem - something I had not before considered - but, clearly,
solve a problem is exactly what she did.

I think I'll have to rethink my human uniqueness.

Regards,

Fred Nickols
Managing Principal
Distance Consulting
nickols@att.net
www.nickols.us
(740) 392-9427

[From Bjorn Simonsen (2007.06.11,23:00 EUST)]
[From Fred Nickols (2007.06.11.1545 ET)] --

Looks to me like a good example of PCT at work in a cat controlling for her
access to one of her favorite spots. It's also a good example of an animal
solving a problem - something I had not before considered - but, clearly,
solve a problem is exactly what she did.

I think I'll have to rethink my human uniqueness.

I don't know, but I don't think cats control sequences over category. But I
think they control at the category level They control how to live with
people and with other cats and when (if) they swim.

I remember many years ago I said a cat runs a shortcut (the direct way to a
place a mouse will pass) if the mouse runs along a circle at the floor. At
that time I remember you didn't think the cat was so unique.

Greetings to your clever cat

bjorn

[From Rick Marken (2007.06.11.1510)]

Fred Nickols (2007.06.11.1545 ET) --

I have a cat that insists on sitting almost on top of my mouse
pad - right next to my laptop.

Sure looks like controlling to me. In fact, your demonstration is just
like the one William James described to show the difference between
iron filings moving to a magnet and Romeo moving to Juliet. He
imagined doing what you did: putting an obstruction between the
filings and the magnet and between Romeo and Juliet. Your cat acted
like Romeo rather than like the filings, doing whatever it could to
produce the end, rather than being stuck pressing "idiotically"
(James' words) against the obstacle.

Best regards

Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken PhD
Lecturer in Psychology UCLA
Statistical Analyst VHA
rsmarken@gmail.com

[from Gary Cziko 2007.06.11 22:11 GMT]

Fred:

Interesting cat observations. Sure looks like she is controlling something (no surprise), but from your description it is not clear what the controlled variable is. Does she just want to be near the mouse or near the laptop. Or near you. What if you put the mouse and trackpad farther away, or on the floor. Is she only there when you are working? If you go somewhere else does she follow you? You will need to provide a lot more disturbances to see what is going on.

This reminds me of the of classic animal insight studies done by Köhler with chimpanzees in which Kohler would hang bananas out of reach from the ceiling and the chimps would stack boxes to climb and get the bananas (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfgang_K%C3%B6hler).

There are also studies that put a barrier between an animal and food. From what I seem to recall, chickens will act more like James’s iron filings and be walk around the barrier, but dogs and some other smarter animals have no problem going around the obstacle. Looks like controlling at different perceptual levels to me.

–Gary

···

On 6/11/07, Fred Nickols nickols@att.net wrote:

[From Fred Nickols (2007.06.11.1545 ET)] –

I have a cat that insists on sitting almost on top of my mouse pad - right
next to my laptop.

My home office has a large workstation that occupies two walls of a small

room in the finished basement. My laptop sits in a pullout drawer in the
angle of the L. To either side, there are work surfaces. The cat walks
down the work surface to my left, around the front of my laptop, and down

onto the pullout surface where my laptop and mouse sit.

So, today, I blocked her access. I placed a typing stand on the work
surface to my left. She yowled a few times and then paced the floor.
Finally, she jumped up the way she usually does, walked down the work

surface to the point where I had blocked her access, then jumped onto the
arm of my office chair and back up on to the work surface. She went around
my blockade (kicking her hind legs as she did so as if to say, stick your

freakin’ easel you know where).

Looks to me like a good example of PCT at work in a cat controlling for her
access to one of her favorite spots. It’s also a good example of an animal
solving a problem - something I had not before considered - but, clearly,

solve a problem is exactly what she did.

I think I’ll have to rethink my human uniqueness.

Regards,

Fred Nickols
Managing Principal
Distance Consulting

nickols@att.net
www.nickols.us
(740) 392-9427

[From Rick Marken (2007.06.12.0900)]

Gary Cziko (2007.06.11 22:11 GMT)

Fred:

Interesting cat observations...You will need to provide a lot
more disturbances to see what is going on.
...
There are also studies that put a barrier between an animal and food.
From what I seem to recall, chickens will act more like James's iron
filings and be walk around the barrier, but dogs and some other smarter
animals have no problem going around the obstacle. Looks like
controlling at different perceptual levels to me.

Great points. Folk singer Greg Brown has a great little tune where he
reminisces about having fried chicken -- prepared from "scratch", so
to speak -- at his grandma's farm as a kid. In it he compares a
chicken to broccoli on legs -- just a notch above iron filings. Even a
vegetarian might be able to enjoy a nice plate of fried chicken after
seeing a chicken "idiotically" pressing its beak against the barrier.
And it tastes a lot better than fried broccoli, too, as far as I'm
concerned. From what I've seen, cows seem to work the same way (as
chickens and filings), though it's hard to resist those soulful brown
eyes;-)

Best

Rick

···

--
Richard S. Marken PhD
Lecturer in Psychology UCLA
Statistical Analyst VHA
rsmarken@gmail.com