Tiny Brains, Big Psychologies: How Ants Changed Our Understanding of the Mind

Sleigh, Charlotte (2012) Tiny Brains, Big Psychologies: How Ants Changed Our Understanding of the Mind. In: History and Philosophy of Psychology Section 2012, 3-5 April 2012, St. Hilda's College, University of Oxford. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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Abstract

In Mental Evolution in Animals (1883), George Romanes wrestled with the relationship between brain size and intelligence. He could not quite bring himself to say that a creature with a brain so tiny as the ant’s was truly complex in its psychology. Romanes’ opinion was in keeping with a long-standing tradition that the ant was the greatest flower of instinct in the invertebrate kingdom, perhaps the animal world altogether – but that it lacked intelligence, a quality found in the higher animals only. However, Romanes was radically out of step with the psychological developments that were shortly to follow, starting in continental Europe and spreading to the US. Beginning with the Swiss psychiatrist Auguste Forel, theorists began to dissociate ants’ psychology from their (limited) physical brains. As in the nineteenth century, the family Formicidae continued to provide one of psychology’s greatest challenges, but ants’ minds became dispersed across the colony, rather than residing in the individual brain. This paper explores how that physical unseating of the mind interplayed with human concerns of the twentieth century, and with the differing ontologies of human psychology associated with them.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Keynote)
Subjects: D History General and Old World
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: M.R.L. Hurst
Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2015 11:26 UTC
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2015 08:19 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/50910 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Sleigh, Charlotte: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1516-9226
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