Interview with an Octopus

Octopuses are extraordinary creatures: Despite their numerous biological divergences from humans, they display impressive intelligence. Aquarists and scientists alike have noted instances of octopuses having what appear to be personalities, and some (Roland Anderson and Jennifer Mather) have gone so far as to propose that octopuses are just as capable of having personalities as humans. There has been significant push-back from ethologists (Roger Hanlon and David Sinn) who instead say that this is the result of projection, and that animal behavior science ought to take a more quantitative and experimental approach to studies of behavior. The case of the octopus is a valuable opportunity to consider how we as humans go about observing animal behavior. The contentious debate over whether to apply human terms like personality to animals may ultimately tell us more about the nature of humans as observers than the animals themselves. Octopuses provide a philosophical mirror by which we can consider our propensity to look at the world through a decidedly human lens.



Share this Post