Apr 20, 2007

Is a rat! (and maybe is better than it sounds)

I have always been curious about the animals' process of thinking. We know some of them, like dogs, do have dreams, what indicates some level of unconscious.

Recently studies with monkeys and rats made it clear the we know nothing about the potential of the animals' brains.

Case 1: The monkey business

According to Stephen Dubner, author of "Freakonomics", a study (to be featured in his next book) that used capuchin monkeys to examine the psychological effects of money on the animals, had an unexpected turn when they learn to use the money, uhm, let's say, as good as humans. It is worth reading the whole story! Not only is interesting, I bet you will laugh..

Case 2: The rats that know they don't know.

Another study, featured in Newsweek, seems to indicate that the small rodents may have the ability to think about their own thoughts, to engage in self-reflection, to introspect. And know what they don't know.

What reminds me of another study on rats, that show that when rats find 'totally new food' they do not eat it until the food pass what we can call a 'control group' test: some rats are sent to eat that new food and if those rats are alive after some days, just then the whole group would eat it.

What so far they don't know is what are the characteristics of the rats sent as control group: would it be the less 'intelligent' ones, the weakest ones and therefore the 'disposable' ones or are they sending the healthier and strongest ones, what would mean that they are willing to sacrifice the best ones to save the group and ergo, the specie?

Me, I like rats. I understand why we should keep them away from home, but each time I see one, I can't help thinking that they have survived because of their intelligence. And I respect intelligence.

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