The Communication of Preverbal Mammals

Of the Cetacea I have had little experience. I once dissected in the Cambridge Zoological Laboratories a specimen of Phocoena bought from the local fishmonger, and did not really encounter cetaceans again until this year, when I had an opportunity to meet Dr. Lilly's dolphins. I hope that my discussion of some of the questions that are in my mind as I approach these peculiar mammals will assist you in examining either these or related questions.

My previous work in the fields of anthropology, animal ethology, and psychiatric theory provides a theoretical framework for the transactional analysis of behavior. The premises of this theoretical position may be briefly summarized: (1) that a relationship between two (or more) organisms is, in-fact, a sequence of S-R sequences (i.e.,. of contexts in which proto-learning occurs) ; (2) that deuterolearning (i.e., learning to learn) is, in fact, the acquiring of information about the contingency patterns of the contexts in which proto-learning occurs; and (3) that the "character" of the organism is the aggregate of its deutero-learning and therefore reflects the contextual patterns of past protolearning.148

These premises are essentially a hierarchic structuring of learning theory along lines related to Russell's Theory of Logical Types.149 The premises, following the Theory of Types, are primarily appropriate for the analysis of digital communication. To what extent they may be applicable to analogic communication or to systems that combine the digital with the analogic is problematic. I hope that the study of dolphin communication will throw light on these fundamental problems. The point is not either to discover that dolphins have complex language or to teach them English, but to close gaps in our theoretical knowledge of communication by studying a system that, whether rudimentary or complex, is almost certainly of a totally unfamiliar kind.

Let me start from the fact that the dolphin is a mammal. This fact has, of course, all sorts of implications for anatomy and physiology, but it is not with these that I am concerned. I am interested in his communication, in what is called his "behavior," looked at as an aggregate of data perceptible and meaningful to other members of the

* This article appeared as Chapter 25, pp. 569-799, in Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises, edited by Kenneth S. Norris, University of California Press, 1966. Reprinted by permission of The Regents of the University of California.

148 J. Ruesch and G. Bateson, Communication. The Social Matrix of Psychiatry, New York, Norton,

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