Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Proof Intelligence Tests Are Culturally Biased …

… in animals. In particular, intelligence tests at first appeared to show that dogs are smarter than wolves:

Dr Hare’s experiments involved showing his animals two upside-down cups, one of which covered food. A human would then gesture in some way at the cup covering the food. In theory, if the animal being tested was properly interpreting the gestures, it should have been lured to the object that the experimenter was indicating. And that is what Dr Hare found. Dogs selected the cup hiding the food far more than half the time, whereas the wolves he used for comparison got it right no more frequently than chance.

It turned out that the tests in question were culturally biased towards canids who had been raised by humans. In another experiment:

Her team therefore worked with a mixture of pet dogs, dogs from animal shelters that had had minimal interaction with people, and wolves raised by humans. They exposed their animals to an experiment similar to Dr Hare’s and came up with strikingly different results.

As they report in Animal Behaviour, the wolves outperformed both shelter dogs and pets. Indeed, six of the eight wolves followed human gestures perfectly in more than eight out of ten trials. Only three of eight pets were as successful as that and, as with Dr Hare’s wolves, none of the shelter dogs performed better than chance.

If the intelligence tests had involved moose hunting …


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