Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

What Is Intelligence?

Is any species of herps intelligent?

Compiled by Melissa Kaplan, 2001


I know that I am not alone in getting email or reading posts wherein herp keepers ask if their particular pet or a particular species is intelligent. The question is not an easy one as the very definition of the word/concept of intelligence is one that undergoes change over time. I thought I would created this page to reflect various ideas of intelligence and let readers make up their own minds.

What Is Intelligence?
From Artificial Intelligence, Part II, Shelly Wu, Ph.D.,

Artificial Intelligence is a multidisciplinary field, which involves at least psychology, cognitive science, computer science and neuroscience. Psychologists, cognitive psychologists in particular, play a prominent role in the research of artificial intelligence because much of A.I.'s success depends on the reverse-engineering of human intelligence. John McCarthy of Stanford University, known as the father of artificial intelligence, says:

Intelligence is the computational part of the ability to achieve goals in the world. Varying kinds and degrees of intelligence occur in people, many animals and some machines.

Let hear what some other experts say on this subject.

Successfully intelligent people discern their strengths and weaknesses, and then figure out how to capitalize on their strengths, and to compensate for or remediate their weaknesses. Successfully intelligent individuals succeed in part because they achieve a functional balance among a "triarchy" of abilities:

  • Analytical Abilities, which are used to analyze, evaluate, judge, compare and contrast;
  • Creative Abilities, which are used to create, invent, discover, imagine;
  • Practical Abilities, which are used to apply, utilize, implement, and activate.

Successfully intelligent people are not necessarily high in all three of these abilities, but find a way effectively to exploit whatever pattern of abilities they may have. --- Robert Sternberg, Professor of Psychology and Education, Yale University

The ability to improve behavior through learning is the hallmark of intelligence, and thus the ultimate challenge of AI and robotics. --- Maja J Mataric', Director, Robotics Research Labs, University of Southern California.

We thus decided to define "intelligence" as the comparative level of performance of a system in reaching its own objectives. A system with greater intelligence, in the same situation, reaches its objectives oftener. (Another way to define and measure intelligence could be by the comparison of the relative speed of reaching its objective in the same situation.) --- Web Site: Intelligent Systems and Their Societies

For me, intelligence is that wonderfully elusive state of being where you get to make "sense" of the things around you. All of this is relative to the individual, Kind of an Ayn Rand relative morals type of deal. I guess you could make a case for intelligence as any type of orderly processing of environmental information, but that is not nearly as much fun. Locate it? Kind of like grabbing the wind. Sure, you can make a wind tunnel of tests and outputs like the smoke trails to mark the wind, but that is just a mark and not the wind itself. --- Dan D. Jystad

I think that intelligence is evolving, always changing, always progressing, never ending, dynamic, explosive, powerful. Intelligence used to be and is measured by certain tests such as the IQ test. The only problem with the test is that it is derived by a certain level of intelligence, and there is always more intelligence to be found. Intelligence tends to be quantified. Who is doing the quantifying? In fact, when one quantifies intelligence it becomes a static event. Intelligence is ABSOLUTELY dynamic, not quantifiable..not static. --- "bar"

I want to give two answers from two different perspectives:

A classical answer from the usual SOM perspective : The classical view says that one may define, locate, and measure intelligence objectively. Classically intelligence is one property of mind whose locus is an individual human (anthropocentric view) brain. Brainless, there is no mind. Mindless, there is no intelligence.

A Quantonic answer from a quantum/MoQ perspective: The Quantonic view says intelligence is a shared value of the multiverse. Shared intelligence is nonseparable, nonisolable, nonlocal, immeasurable, and describable but undefinable. --- Doug (The above three are from the Quantonic Questions & Answers site)

Dictionary Definitions of Intelligence

Academic Press Dictionary of Science and Technology
Psychology. a general term encompassing various mental abilities, including the ability to remember and use what one has learned, in order to solve problems, adapt to new situations, and understand and manipulate one's environment.

Behavior. as applied to the activities of animals, the capacity to show a change in behavior as the result of experience.

Cambridge Dictionaries Online
intelligence (cleverness): the ability to understand and learn and make judgments or have opinions that are based on reason

Intelligence: (1) the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations; also, the skilled use of reason ... (2) the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one's environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (as tests)

On-Line Medical Dictionary
Intelligence: The ability to comprehend or understand. (Ability is defined as "the quality or state of being able".)

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