Sunday, June 19, 2016

Feline Figuring

An experiment in animal cognition suggests that cats may have a limited understanding of cause and effect, one of the basic laws of classical physics.

Researchers used two containers that either did or didn't contain a ball, and rattled some of them before dropping a ball out of them but didn't rattle others. After the cats were exposed to this procedure several times, they were allowed to wander freely around a test area. When they heard the rattling sound they seemed to anticipate a ball dropping nearby, but they were surprised when one dropped without a rattle.

Were any other animal to demonstrate an understanding of such level, we humans should begin to prepare for extinction as a species. Especially if that animal were a poodle, chihuahua or Yorkie -- those things cannot wait to develop opposable thumbs and take their revenge on whoever was responsible for their current appearance.

Cats, though, should prove to be a lesser danger. After all, if they killed us all, who would bring them food? The necessity of hunting it for themselves would seriously curtail nap time. So most of us are probably safe. "Except for that guy Schrödinger," they say. "We'd like to chat with him about this box business. Oh, and the guy who invented that red dot thing that zips around the floor."

I for one welcome our new feline overlords.


fillyjonk said...

I dunno, isn't the old thing where you "fake out" a dog by pretending to throw a ball, so he tears off to catch the ball-you-didn't-throw, kind of like what they did to these cats with the rattling balls? The dog is EXPECTING a thrown ball because of your motion and is surprised that you didn't.

Then again, in my experience, the dogs' reaction will be more like "Hoo-man? What did I do wrong that you no throw ball? Why you no like me any more?" whereas I think a cat, in that exchange, would walk away, making off that "Oh, OF COURSE I knew you didn't throw it. I was just chasing for my daily exercise."

(Still, I would rather have a cat than a dog.....)

Friar said...

I thought about that too, and I guess if there's a difference it may be explained in the body of the paper. The link is just to an abstract.