Federal Govt. Spends $2.1 Million to Study 'What Animals Really Think'

April 3, 2013 - 4:49 PM


Nairobi, a 9-year-old female cheetah, is shown at Safari Park in Escondido, Calif. on Nov. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

(CNSNews.com) – The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $2.1 million grant over five years for a research project titled, “Wild Minds: What Animals Really Think.”

The research project is designed to study how animals think and to promote “the evolutionary link between animals and humans,” as well as animal welfare “in the wild and in our homes,” according to the award abstract on the NSF Web site.

The New York Hall of Science, the Institute for Learning Innovation, Hunter College of the City University of New York, and a consortium of five regional science center/zoo partnerships received $2,131,193 in funding, which began Sept. 1, 2009 and continues until Aug. 31, 2013.

“The project's primary goal for public audiences is to foster a deeper understanding of similarities between people and animals in terms of cognition, i.e., how we think,” the grant description states.

“Wild Minds will explore two interrelated hypotheses: (1) a deeper insight into how animals think will create or strengthen the awareness of an evolutionary link between animals and humans; and (2) that this sense of a strong connection can stimulate interest in the welfare of animals in the wild and in our homes,” the abstract states.

The project, which includes a 1,500 sq.-ft. traveling exhibit “exploring animal cognition,” will also place human behavior under the microscope.

“The Institute for Learning Innovation project will conduct applied research that will expand on the results of the summative evaluation of the exhibition by investigating whether changes in awareness, understanding, and knowledge about action are sustained over time and/or lead to attitudinal change, behavioral intention, and observable behavior,” the abstract states, referring to human beings.

The Institute for Learning Innovation states that its mission “is to study, support and advocate for free-choice learning – learning that fulfills the lifelong human quest for knowledge, understanding and personal fulfillment.”

The National Science Foundation is “an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 ‘to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; to secure the national defense,” according to its Web site.

The agency, which has an annual budget of around $7 billion (as of FY 2012), funds “approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities.”