What do animals 'know'? More than you may think

Dec 09, 2011 By Stuart Wolpert
A rat finds a reward in an ambiguous situation

(PhysOrg.com) -- Rats use their knowledge to make decisions when faced with ambiguous situations, UCLA psychologists report.

"Rats often make and behave as if they're rational creatures," said UCLA associate professor of psychology Aaron Blaisdell, a member of UCLA's Brain Research Institute and senior author of a new study published in the December issue of the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.

"To make a in the face of uncertainty, rats call on prior history and reasoning," Blaisdell said. "They apply what they know to a situation where they are uncertain. The rats are not necessarily thinking like little humans, but they have learned through experience. A lot of animal behavior seems to be rational. Their behavior follows logical inferences."

Blaisdell, an expert in animal cognition (he avoids the phrase "animal intelligence"), and Cynthia Fast, the study's lead author and a UCLA graduate student in , report on a series of experiments in which 74 female rats were rewarded with a sugar solution — which rats like about as much as teenagers like soda, Blaisdell said — for pressing a lever under certain conditions but not under others, which they learned to differentiate.

The rats, none of which were harmed, first learned to expect the sugar reward if they pressed a lever when they saw one of two lights illuminated in their enclosure but not when they saw both lights on. After learning this pattern in 90 days, the rats were shown only one illuminated light while the other light was covered. In this case, the rats searched less for the sugar solution, as if both lights were on. This indicated, Blaisdell said, that the rats imagined the other light to be on, even though they could not see it.

"Their behavior is consistent with their having an image of the light being on," Blaisdell said. "When we didn't cover the light, they knew what decision to make. They have the ability to hold an image of something that is not there and make a decision based on that."

"Their prior learning influenced how they perceived this ambiguity," Fast said. "The rats responded less in this condition than they would if there was just a single light but more than they would if both lights were on. It would be like your driving on your commute and approaching an intersection where you know there is a traffic light but you can't see it because a tree branch or a bus in front of you is blocking your view. You approach slowly until you're able to see if the light is red or green. The rats seem to be doing the same thing. It's as if they reason, 'Hmm, I can't see the light on the right; maybe it's on,' and they press the lever less than they would if there were just a single light on."

In another experiment, rats were given the reward only if they pressed a lever when both lights were on, but not when either light was on alone — a pattern they learned much more quickly (in only 30 days). Then the psychologists covered one of the lights to study how the rats would respond.

What was surprising, they said, was that covering the light in this case did not seem to have any impact on the rats' decision to respond. They continued to behave as if they were certain that the covered light was not on.

To find out why, the researchers conducted a follow-up experiment in which the rats were again given the reward for pressing the lever when both lights were on (but not when only one was on), and they were also given the reward if they pressed the lever when they heard a tone or a clicking sound — but not the tone and clicking sound simultaneously. Other rats were given the reward only if the tone and clicking sound occurred together, not separately.

"The rats are capable of learning that too," Fast said. "They learn to differentiate among these different lights and different auditory cues and can tell them all apart."

"It takes them a long time," Blaisdell said.

The rats were more sensitive to ambiguity when the uncertainty followed the more challenging training involving both the lights and the auditory cues, even in the condition that failed to make a difference previously, Fast and Blaisdell report.

"The difficulty of the task the are engaged in affects how they deal with ," Blaisdell said. "When the task is more difficult, they address it in a more sophisticated fashion. As far as I know, that has not been shown with any animal before."

Little is known about how human imagination works, but an understanding of how widespread imagination is across the animal kingdom can shed light on the origins of imagination,

Blaisdell said.

The aging brain

The ability to make decisions in ambiguous situations declines with age, Blaisdell and Fast noted.

"With aging, decision-making becomes more fragile, especially in the face of lack of information," Blaisdell said.

Blaisdell is interested in learning the brain mechanisms involved in decision-making and perhaps applying this research to human cognition and neural changes that occur with aging or with degenerative diseases. He also hopes to gain new insights into how we learn.

"There is still so much we don't know about learning," he said. "The more we can understand about how the brain supports cognition, the more we will be able to look for where cognition is going wrong when the brain malfunctions."

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Isaacsname
5 / 5 (7) Dec 09, 2011
I'd still like to see some work that differentiates between cognitive abilities of hand-raised rats as opposed to rats caught in the wild. I have a sneaky suspicion that wild-born rodents are much more adept at figuring things like this out.

For example, do tame rodents practice gaze-tracking of other animals ? In the wild, this is fairly common among different animals,iow, squirrels for example, will gaze-track birds or other squirrels in order to see what they are looking at.
rawa1
1.3 / 5 (17) Dec 09, 2011
The animals have strong aetheric feeling so to say. It means, in random particles Universe the information is mediated in both transverse, both longitudinal waves in equal way. The people learned the perceive and understand the reality in transverse waves, but due their life in dense societies they lost many instincts, which could be mediated with longitudinal waves. One example of these lost abilities could serve telepathy and virgule effect used for dowsing. http://en.wikiped.../Dowsing Or better to say, these instincts were replaced with many social instincts, which are labelled as an emotional intelligence. These instincts are complex and of indeterministic nature too, but they're mediated with transverse waves of light. Now we are living in the era of deterministically biased science, which intentionally ignores the information mediated with transverse waves on behalf of deterministic one, mediated with the waves of light. We could say, we are living in cult of light waves
Isaacsname
4 / 5 (2) Dec 09, 2011
There's an odd sort of subtle bias in researching cognitive abilities of animals, imo.

What are we trying to do here ? ~ Measure the state of something to determine whether it is inherent in nature.

But how are we doing it ? ~ By creating an entirely controlled environment, completely removed from a natural situation, which is where true conformation would be observed, a true dependance on the variable we state.

Does this not share a measurement problem with QM ,somewhat ?

Iow, we are trying to " measure " something in it's natural state by constructing a system with rigid perimeters, is this not basically paving the way for the observations we are biased in looking for in the first place ?

I mean, particles in the wild do the same things they do in the labs, so this method serves it's purpose well, but animals do not do this, at all.
aroc91
5 / 5 (8) Dec 09, 2011
HURR DURR RATS ARE CONTROLLED BY TRANSVERSE AND LONGITUDINAL WAVES BLAH BLAH BLAH

-rawa1


That's quite possibly the longest post I've seen on here that conveys absolutely no sensible information at all.
sigfpe
5 / 5 (1) Dec 09, 2011
"What was surprising, they said, was that covering the light in this case did not seem to have any impact on the rats' decision to respond."

Of course it did. The write-up says that rats were trained to distinguish between two lights on and one light on. Cover one of the lights and they can no longer distinguish the two cases. So if the writeup is correct, covering one of the lights must have made a difference. So the writeup is inconsistent. So what actually happened in the experiment?

The good news is that the paper is available free online: http://www.spring...text.pdf
hyongx
1 / 5 (2) Dec 09, 2011
Is this news? Did you not read "Ms. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH" when you were a youth?
Science rats can use electricity and live in tunnels with ventilation systems and travel to a new valley to create their idyllic civilization.
As long as the bulldozer doesn't come too soon.
(Hitchhiker's reference?)
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (1) Dec 09, 2011
I remember that movie. I'll have to watch it again, I broke out of a NIMH facility in Alexandria VA myself, long ago.

To go get beer.

Twice.

I was probably somewhat of a " labrat " myself in those days :P
antonima
not rated yet Dec 09, 2011
The story should have been titled 'Rats are more intelligent than humans previously thought'
unknownorgin
1 / 5 (3) Dec 09, 2011
I think reasoning ability of a species should be measured in the animals natural suroundings ,for example put a naked lizard and a human in a desert and in a week the human will be dead and the lizard will be looking for a mate so who has the reasoning ability in this case?
Eikka
5 / 5 (2) Dec 09, 2011
I think reasoning ability of a species should be measured in the animals natural suroundings ,for example put a naked lizard and a human in a desert and in a week the human will be dead and the lizard will be looking for a mate so who has the reasoning ability in this case?


That's just the same thing as dropping a whale and a naked human in the middle of the atlantic, and seeing which one stays alive for a day.

What are you trying to prove exactly?
HealingMindN
5 / 5 (3) Dec 09, 2011
That's just the same thing as dropping a whale and a naked human in the middle of the atlantic, and seeing which one stays alive for a day.

What are you trying to prove exactly?


He may actually be confessing to doing something.
Argiod
3 / 5 (8) Dec 09, 2011
I think that humans are the singular most arrogant and filthy animal on the face of the Earth. We always think we are at the center of the universe, we think we hold dominion over all that exists, we exploit every resource to extinction, we hunt every edible creature to extinction, we go to war and kill our own at the drop of an insult, and have no handle on controlling our population numbers. We're breeding ourselves out of a living space. Earth was, at one time, a virtual garden of eden. Now it is the biggest waste dump in the universe. Given a few more decades of this and there will be nothing left on the planet worth living for, unless you are an anerobic bacteria or some form of fungus.

Of course, this is just my opinion; I could be wrong.
Telekinetic
1 / 5 (6) Dec 10, 2011
I, unlike these other buffoons, understand well what rawa is referring to and I applaud his original interpretation of works by others, especially David Deutsch, proponent of MWI, which is steadily becoming adopted by the physics establishment. I ask the rest of you, with your parochial and "yesteryear's news" viewpoints, especially in the light of quantum entanglement and 2D universes- What are you doing here?
aroc91
not rated yet Dec 10, 2011
I, unlike these other buffoons, understand well what rawa is referring to and I applaud his original interpretation of works by others, especially David Deutsch, proponent of MWI, which is steadily becoming adopted by the physics establishment. I ask the rest of you, with your parochial and "yesteryear's news" viewpoints, especially in the light of quantum entanglement and 2D universes- What are you doing here?


I'm reading about rat decision making, not aether foam wave bullshit. He's seriously talking about telepathy and dowsing, you moron. DOWSING. The idea that underground water can make a stick in your hand move. How dense do you have to be to take that seriously?
Callippo
1 / 5 (2) Dec 10, 2011
I applaud his original interpretation of works by others, especially David Deutsch, proponent of MWI
The dense aether model is much older, than the MWI and it doesn't interpret "quantum computing", "mathematical Universe", "computer simulation" or other naive ideas of theorists, who are just trying to enforce the formally thinking establishment with such a propaganda. Universe doesn't compute anything.
Telekinetic
1 / 5 (5) Dec 10, 2011
I, unlike these other buffoons, understand well what rawa is referring to and I applaud his original interpretation of works by others, especially David Deutsch, proponent of MWI, which is steadily becoming adopted by the physics establishment. I ask the rest of you, with your parochial and "yesteryear's news" viewpoints, especially in the light of quantum entanglement and 2D universes- What are you doing here?


I'm reading about rat decision making, not aether foam wave bullshit. He's seriously talking about telepathy and dowsing, you moron. DOWSING. The idea that underground water can make a stick in your hand move. How dense do you have to be to take that seriously?

Rawa is legitimately connecting the subtle perceptions of animals, and humans are animals, to heretofore unquantified energies, but acknowledged for centuries. Just because of your limited, circumscribed set of experiences don't include others' experience means you may just be ignorant.
Telekinetic
1 / 5 (5) Dec 10, 2011
@Callipo:
All theories, like inventions, usually arise and are elaborated upon from previous ones and not from thin air. The MWI work is a culmination of many centuries of thought, and your own fixed notion of what the universe is or isn't can be turned on its head tomorrow.
Callippo
1 / 5 (2) Dec 10, 2011
the MWI work is a culmination of many centuries of thought
MWI is a product of the abstract approach to the QM framework in 50's of the last century (Bohm, Everett) and its rather silly misunderstanding of reality, which appears different for everyone of us and nothing strange is about it. This is not a multiverse? If not, then we have nothing in common. The common denominator of these ideas is, they don't enable to predict anything testable or even worse, they didn't understand, how trivial things they're actually trying to describe. So I don't want to be connected with these ideas, with their alleged "plagiarizing" the less. In general, the people who are accusing the others from "fixed ideas" or even from "plagiarizing" or whatever else unethical behavior without evidence should judge better their words next time for not being surprised with dismissive reaction.
Callippo
1 / 5 (2) Dec 10, 2011
He's seriously talking about telepathy and dowsing, you moron. DOWSING. The idea that underground water can make a stick in your hand move
Of course it's not water, but it could be the redistribution of electromagnetic field of underground piezoelectric minerals caused with this water or something similar. Many animals are sensitive to this field (sharks) and at the case of humans it could be rudimentary ability as well. Just before few years every experiment with magnets around human head would be considered as a quackery of highest degree - well, and today these experiments are done routinely.

http://en.wikiped...eception
http://www.youtub...NPqCj-iA

BTW I know, these experiments are barely considered reproducible. The cold fusion is considered barely reproducible too and now we have a megawatt units of it...
Telekinetic
1 / 5 (5) Dec 10, 2011
"MWI is a product of the abstract approach to the QM framework in 50's of the last century (Bohm, Everett) and its rather silly misunderstanding of reality, which appears different for everyone of us and nothing strange is about it."- Callippo
"Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it."-Niels Bohr
Callippo
1 / 5 (2) Dec 10, 2011
"Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it."-Niels Bohr
It has been said before seventy years. We made a progress in understanding of both reality, both quantum mechanics from this time. Try to imagine, you're living like bubble at the water surface. You can observe the neighboring reality with surface waves through Brownian noise. Would you be really surprised with fuzziness of your observations at small distance scale?
aroc91
not rated yet Dec 10, 2011
He's seriously talking about telepathy and dowsing, you moron. DOWSING. The idea that underground water can make a stick in your hand move
Of course it's not water, but it could be the redistribution of electromagnetic field of underground piezoelectric minerals caused with this water or something similar. Many animals are sensitive to this field (sharks) and at the case of humans it could be rudimentary ability as well. Just before few years every experiment with magnets around human head would be considered as a quackery of highest degree - well, and today these experiments are done routinely.

http://en.wikiped...eception

BTW I know, these experiments are barely considered reproducible. The cold fusion is considered barely reproducible too and now we have a megawatt units of it...


There's a huge difference between sensing a magnetic field and using a forked piece of wood to find ANYTHING underground. You're changing the subject.
bewertow
5 / 5 (1) Dec 10, 2011
@rawa1

WTF are you talking about?
Callippo
1 / 5 (1) Dec 10, 2011
There's a huge difference between sensing a magnetic field and using a forked piece of wood to find ANYTHING underground.
It's not just forked piece of wood, it's a conductive antenna too and it doesn't enable to find anything, but a conductive objects. The fact, many people are extrapolating this phenomenon outside the area of its validity doesn't mean, it's rational core may not be worth of further research under scientifically controlled conditions.
WTF are you talking about?

Try to imagine the brain as a system of moving charged ions. These charged ions will radiate EM waves at distance in low frequency EM waves. Is such idea acceptable for you?
Callippo
1 / 5 (2) Dec 10, 2011
What do you think about this, for example? http://www.youtub...ovb2kZ9Q Apparently, some peer-reviewed studies are missing here. But contemporary psychologists are interested rather about question, whether the women are attracted to men in expensive cars. http://www.telegr...ars.html This is decadence of science.
aroc91
not rated yet Dec 12, 2011
What do you think about this, for example? http://www.youtub...ovb2kZ9Q


That's lunacy.

Apparently, some peer-reviewed studies are missing here


That's because there's nothing there to investigate. It's the same with that Indian guy that claimed he'd survived for 40 years without eating anything and only drinking water. We don't give those people the time of day because they're stupid and it's obvious.

Callippo
3 / 5 (2) Dec 12, 2011
What do you think about this, for example? http://www.youtub...ovb2kZ9Q
The cold fusion has been refused twenty years with using the same arguments. We have one megawatt unit based on it already, but the peer-reviewed study is still missing, because nothing can convince religious people to bother with facts.
Telekinetic
1 / 5 (4) Dec 12, 2011
Thanks for the link, Callippo, I've been aware of this phenomenal guy but haven't seen this update. I would think he would have valuable insight on the cutting-edge questions being asked by physicists.

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