Chimpanzees know how to pick raisins from a crack with a stick.
Zebrafish can count their peers.
Even a roundworm with only 302 neurons seems to be able to think whether to take a bite or not.
Animals have very different skills, but does their behavior show that they are smart? And if so, which are the smartest species?
Researchers do not yet have a clear answer to these questions. They even find another fundamental question difficult to answer: what is it intelligence?
However, intelligence researchers now want to learn from it Periodic Table der elements, where you can find out based on the element’s location whether it conducts electricity or interacts strongly with water, for example.
A team of brain scientists, philosophers, and IT professionals wants to start the project different intelligences We organize our knowledge of intelligent behavior and brain structure in animals and humans in the same systematic way.
The team hopes to use such a system of intelligence to predict what skills you can expect from a given species and what it takes to name an animal intelligent.
Monkeys cheat on the mirror test
In general, we see intelligence as the ability to respond appropriately to the environment, solve problems, and acquire new knowledge.
But even in humans, it can be difficult to measure pure intelligence with an intelligence test. And even more so in animals, because we can only study intelligence indirectly through their behaviour.
Behaviorists see a lot in mirror tests, where an anesthetized animal receives a mark on its forehead. When he wakes up later, he is placed in front of a mirror.
If the animal tries to get rid of the mark by rubbing its head, for example, you can assume that the animal knows it is seeing itself in a mirror, and thus has some form of self-awareness. This is traditionally considered an essential component of higher intelligence.
Children from one and a half years old pass this test, as well as great apes, dolphins, elephants and magpies.
But in 2017, rhesus monkeys fooled a Chinese research team. Rhesus monkeys usually fail this test, and so do they Chinese search. But if they are rewarded for touching the mark on their head, within a few weeks they will have mastered the trick.
This suggests that rhesus macaques may know they are looking in a mirror, but do not find the mark on their head disturbing. For example, many species can pass the mirror test, and the list of intelligent animals may be much longer than we think.
With the mirror test as the true test of intelligence, scientists have once again been left empty-handed when determining intelligence in animals.
The system connects behavior and the brain
Animals also display other behaviors that can be seen as an expression of intelligence. For example, cuttlefish can learn how to open a screw cap to grab a treat, and crows drop stones into a tube of water so that the water level rises and a tasty snack is close at hand.
But neither the cuttlefish nor the crow can do what the other can do, which makes it difficult to determine which animal is the smarter.
So, a clear new definition is needed that tells us when an animal is intelligent and what makes one animal more intelligent than another. This is the challenge Andrew Baron from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.
Barron leads Diverse Intelligences, an interdisciplinary research team that aims to put intelligence into a system. As a neurologist, he himself studies the relationship between animal behavior and its nervous system.
According to Barron, this is the key to the periodic table of intelligence.
He believes that the intelligent characteristics of each animal are related to their environment and way of life. Even relatively primitive animals such as bees So they can be intelligent beings.
According to Barron, over the course of animal evolution, the brain has developed a number of intelligent properties – for example, the ability to learn, count or plan.
Some of these traits may be beneficial to one animal, but not to another, which must have very different characteristics. For example, the intelligent characteristics of animals have to do with what they must be able to do.
But while these animal skills may seem random, Baron believes intelligence can be arranged systematically like the elements on the periodic table. To arrive at an intelligence scale, he and his team want to find a pattern in the relationship between different intelligent traits and brain structure.
Barron investigates the anatomical details that influence the speed and efficiency at which the brain works.
If the nerve signals pass through the thick nerve bundles, the animal is likely to think faster than if the nerve bundles are thin. Likewise, animals with a thicker cortex and more neural connections would be expected to solve more complex problems.
Appropriate cooperation between specialized brain centers also contributes to greater efficiency and versatility of the brain that can handle multiple tasks.
Animals have many kinds of brains and nervous systems—from sea anemones and jellyfish, to small-brained insects and worms, to mammals with brains as big as ours.
However, evolution is not only making the nervous systems and brains of animals more complex, but also their behavior.
Andrew Baron and his team are trying to integrate these properties – brain structure and intelligent behavior – into a single system, just as the elements on the periodic table are arranged in horizontal rows according to their electrical properties and vertical columns according to their chemical properties.
Chimpanzees know best
Just as the periodic table put us on the trail of new elements, the intelligence system can also yield surprising insights.
For example, we usually assume that we are the most intelligent beings on earth, but that is not necessarily the truth. After all, we define intelligence from a human point of view.
However, animals live in a very different reality than us and may have specific skills adapted to their way of life.
Just think of bats and sharks, which orient themselves via echolocation and electroreception respectively. As a result, they experience the world in ways we can’t even imagine.
And we humans have already been beaten in our field in terms of intelligence. It happened in 2007 at Kyoto University, Japan in a Scientifically controlled duel Chimpanzee Ayumu and a group of students.
The monkey and humans played a special mnemonic version, which involved remembering the positions of numbers that appeared briefly on the screen.
Ayumu ignored the students on a memory test and remembered 80 percent of the numbers, while the students only scored 40 percent.
Despite this defeat, Andrew Barron firmly believes that once it is finished we will have a prominent place on the intelligence league table. But he’s also sure we can learn a lot from him—not just about the intelligence of animals, but our own.
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