Cephalopod Passes Cognitive Test Designed For Human Children
mi shares a report from ScienceAlert: The marshmallow test, or Stanford marshmallow experiment, is pretty straightforward. A child is placed in a room with a marshmallow. They are told, if they can manage not to eat the marshmallow for 15 minutes, they’ll get a second marshmallow, and be allowed to eat both. This ability to delay gratification demonstrates cognitive abilities such as future planning, and it was originally conducted to study how human cognition develops; specifically, at what age a human is smart enough to delay gratification if it means a better outcome later.

Because it’s so simple, it can be adjusted for animals. Obviously you can’t tell an animal they’ll get a better reward if they wait, but you can train them to understand that better food is coming if they don’t eat the food in front of them straight away. […] The researchers found that all of the cuttlefish in the test condition decided to wait for their preferred food (the live shrimp), but didn’t bother to do so in the control group, where they couldn’t access it. “Cuttlefish in the present study were all able to wait for the better reward and tolerated delays for up to 50-130 seconds, which is comparable to what we see in large-brained vertebrates such as chimpanzees, crows and parrots,” the researchers said.

The other part of the experiment was to test how good the six cuttlefish were at learning. They were shown two different visual cues, a grey square and a white one. When they approached one, the other would be removed from the tank; if they made the “correct” choice, they would be rewarded with a snack. Once they had learnt to associate a square with a reward, the researchers switched the cues, so that the other square now became the reward cue. Interestingly, the cuttlefish that learnt to adapt to this change the quickest were also the cuttlefish that were able to wait longer for the shrimp reward. The team’s research has been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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