The animate kingdom usually REacts to stimuli/situations. If hungry a preset sequence (genetically acquired or previously learned) is set in motion without much internal deliberation. The same goes for when evasive actions are needed. This kind of reactions are usually called ‘reflexes’ or ‘acquired reflexes’.
Humans use them too. We pull our hands when we touch a hot object and we use our arm to protect our head against an incoming stick even though we know this is going to hurt. And no, this is not a rational decision. It is made too quickly for the brain to have had time to reason. If that was the case the brain would have ordered the entire body to move.
I like to use a slightly different name for this kind of interactions: ‘integrative-reflex responses’. Integrative because all available data are used, simultaneously, and reflex because they not based on reason but on a pre-existing pattern.
But humans are able to use yet another method. We reference past experiences, try to establish how relevant they are for the present situation and then adapt the solution we used then to the current problem. Sometimes we confront the possible answer with a filter, usually of a moral, legal or ‘traditional’ nature.
For me this kind of reactions is ‘rational -discursive’: ‘rational’ because it implies rational choice and ‘discursive’ because it is sequenced in time. Moreover both ‘reasoning’ and ‘sequencing’ are made using language – most of us think and remember by speaking to ourselves, right?
Here you have a practical example of these two different attitudes in action: humans stick to what they have already learned because nothing really prods them to change anything to the time proven strategy while the monkey jumps directly to the conclusion once the relevant information becomes available.
The (surprising?) conclusion reached by Victoria Horner: “we are better of because of this!”
Also, our ability to build a discourse about something gives us the ability to make mental projections – to ACT, that is.