Deception in Animals

There is an idea in literature about gullibility in machined (A.I by Spielberg, Pinocchio by Collodi). Both works deal with artificial boys. The underlying message of these movies is that a machine, if it has any chance of survival, must learn to see through the double dealing of humans.

Behavioral deception exists even in non-primate animals. For example, Female coyotes sometimes use sexual wiles to lure unsuspecting male dogs into ambushes by coyote confederates. Opossums and some species of fox feign death to avoid being attacked. And some dogs lure their owners from their couch by feigning a desire to go outside only to jump on the couch when it is vacated.

Primates are the only animals, apart from humans, who have “theory of mind.” That is why systematic observations of complex deceptive behavior have been done mainly for nonhuman primates. “Theory of mind” develops in humans in early or middle childhood and appears to be a pre-requisite for social deception. Theory of mind loosely means that you can imagine what it is like to be another person.

There is a report by Byrne and Whiten (1987) that show how a baboon diverted other baboons from attacking him by feigning alarm at a far-off danger; there have also been many reports of chimps looking away from food, to avoid signaling its location to other chimps, and then recovering the food later.

  • Source: Chapter 1 (Annals of Gullibility)

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