A small experiment using sleights of hand and illusions offers insights into how birds and people perceive the world.
Bunny, an internet-famous sheepadoodle, has brought attention to a new area of study within animal cognition: the use of assistive technology for language acquisition.
It is a truth universally acknowledged—at least by those of the feline persuasion—that an empty box on the floor must be in want of a cat. Ditto for laundry baskets, suitcases, sinks, and even cat carriers (when not used as transport to the vet). This behavior is generally attributed to the fact that cats feel safer when squeezed into small spaces, but it might also be able to tell us something about feline visual perception. That’s the rationale behind a new study in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science with a colorful title: “If I fits I sits: A citizen science investigation into illusory contour susceptibility in domestic cats (Felis silvers catus).”
The paper was inspired in part by a 2017 viral Twitter hashtag, #CatSquares, in which users posted pictures of their cats sitting inside squares marked out on the floor with tape—kind of a virtual box. The following year, lead author Gabriella Smith, a graduate student at Hunter College (CUNY) in New York City, attended a lecture by co-author Sarah-Elizabeth Byosiere, who heads the Thinking Dog Center at Hunter. Byosiere studies canine behavior and cognition, and she spoke about dogs’ susceptibility to visual illusions. While playing with her roommate’s cat later that evening, Smith recalled the Twitter hashtag and wondered if she could find a visual illusion that looked like a square to test on cats.
Smith found it in the work of the late Italian psychologist and artist Gaetano Kanizsa, who was interested in illusory (subjective) contours that visually evoke the sense of an edge in the brain even if there isn’t really a line or edge there. The Kanizsa square consists of four objects shaped like Pac-Man, oriented with the “mouth” facing inward to form the four corners of a square. Even better, there was a 1988 study that used the Kanizsa square to investigate the susceptibility of two young female cats to illusory contours. The study concluded that, yes, cats are susceptible to the Kanizsa square illusion, suggesting that they perceive subjective contours much like humans.
Dogs that would not be the first choice of many pet owners do better than some of the more agreeable fellows when they have to learn from a stranger.
Dogs orient and move in synchrony with family members, which may have implications for the emotional development of people and pets.
Certain species show a remarkable ability to delay gratification, notably great apes, corvids, and parrots, while other species do not (such as rodents, chickens, and pigeons.) Add the cuttlefish to the former category.
Scientists administered an adapted version of the Stanford marshmallow test to cuttlefish and found the cephalopods could delay gratification—that is, wait a bit for preferred prey rather than settling for a less desirable prey. Cuttlefish also performed better in a subsequent learning test, according to a new paper published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. It’s the first time such a link between self-control and intelligence has been found in a non-mammalian species.
As we’ve previously reported, the late Walter Mischel’s landmark behavioral study involved 600 kids between the ages of four and six, all culled from Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School. He would give each child a marshmallow and give them the option of eating it immediately if they chose. But if they could wait 15 minutes, they would get a second marshmallow as a reward. Then Mischel would leave the room, and a hidden video camera would tape what happened next.
It’s astonishing how relentlessly Western philosophy has strained to prove we are not squirrels.
Even when an octopus can’t see light with its eyes, its arms seem to know it is there.
An experiment by evolutionary biologists offers new insights into birds’ brains.
A marine biologist’s ideas for singling out sharks that attack humans have prompted objections from other shark scientists.
It turns out that camouflage isn’t the only talent these cephalopods have.
The solitary cephalopods occasionally join a hunting party with fish, then lash out for reasons that scientists are studying.
It took a customized headpiece to monitor when and how much a grackle blinked in flight.
Researchers say that kangaroos are the first wild animals to exhibit interspecies communication that is more commonly seen in animals that have evolved alongside humans.
“Gunda” and “My Octopus Teacher” present creatures as distinct beings with qualities that have nothing to do with humans.
Scientists in Hungary are streaming experiments with dogs that know many words, featuring them in a contest of canine intelligence.
New research suggests there is a relationship between the diversity of a bee’s diet and the size of its croissant-shaped brain.
When prime habitat is up for grabs, acorn woodpeckers travel from all around to see who will win.
“Vesper Flights” is a collection of essays exploring the connection between humans and the world at large.
How do prey animals stay safe in a world out to get them? And how would I?
They buzz. They hover. Sometimes they sting. But how much do you really know about these insects that can menace our summers?
Exercise prompts the liver to pump out a little-known protein that appears to rejuvenates the brain, a new study found.
Previous research suggested that spending a lot of time with humans might make animals more innovative. These birds had another idea.
Recent research highlights the power of the canine nose to uncover buried remains from ancient human history.
An isolated corner of Manitoba is one of the few places left in the world where humans are the outsiders on display for the wildlife to observe.
A willingness to experiment with new foods and ways of foraging may make some birds less vulnerable to extinction.
The colony entered my dreams, my thoughts, my conversations. Something about me had changed.