Psychologists outsmarted in cats’ test

Someone at The Guardian is trying to stir up conflict. They have an article up that claims that dogs are smarter than cats. a boffin (dressed, no doubt, in a lab coat) tested cats’ abilities to work out how to drag treats on string towards them. On the basis of this test she concluded that “cats do not understand cause-and-effect connections between objects”.
The Beast begs to differ. He knows when one object goes into the kitchen, there’s a high chance that the fridge will be opened:



We both know what’s in there. So do you want to be woken at 3.17am or not?
The Beast, being sophisticated, knows that this is probabilistic causation. It is not certain that he will be fed, but it is more likely than if the moving object went into the bathroom. He even knows about do(): if he goes into the kitchen when I do, and squeaks at me, I’m more likely to give him food.
The problem with the experiment is that it ignore the nature of cats. It assumes that they will cooperate.

Do you really think I’d let you take a photo of my arse, just so you could use it as a statement about the article?
And if anyone really thinks cats do not understand cause-and-effect connections between objects, they have to explain this to Gizmo:

Now you’re read this stuff, go back and read the comments under the Grauniad article. They’re much more fun.

About rpg

Scientist, poet, gadfly
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7 Responses to Psychologists outsmarted in cats’ test

  1. Cath Ennis says:

    I can just imagine a cat looking at a scientist with contempt and thinking “screw YOU. I’m not pulling any strings, go ask the dog”.
    Google is also obsessed with watching the toilet flush, but hasn’t figured out how to do it herself. She might just be smart enough, but we’re pretty sure that Saba got dropped on her head as a kitten. We keep finding her lying on her back in doorways, waiting for a random passerby to give her a belly rub. Even in the middle of the night. And she still falls off the sofa about once a month.

  2. Maxine Clarke says:

    This is really silly. Everyone knows that cats are the most intelligent animals (not so sure about humans). Cats are superior in almost every way possible in fact: clever, clean, furry, quiet, independent, warm….need I go on?

  3. Bob O'Hara says:

    And they’re able to train dumb animals.

  4. Eva Amsen says:

    When I just got my cat, I tried to make sure she wouldn’t go in the bedroom during the day, when I was away. Just before I left every morning, I’d close the bedroom door. The cat figured it out, and ran into the bedroom as soon as I grabbed my keys.
    So I tried to outsmart her by closing the bedroom door before grabbing my keys. It worked for a few days, but the cat figured it out, and ran into the bedroom as soon as I grabbed my bag. I started closing the door when I put on my coat – she figured it out. I closed the door before putting on my shoes – she figured it out. In the end, just getting up from breakfast or vaguely thinking about going to work was enough to trigger the “She’s going to close the doooor!!!” response, and I gave up.

  5. Heather Etchevers says:

    They might be smart, and funny, but they are not always very “nice”:http://network.nature.com/people/etchevers/blog/2009/06/15/some-people-have-a-strange-idea-of-fun. And they give me asthma, unfortunately for me.
    That video is charming, Bob. Gizmo may be hoping some goldfish might pop out.

  6. Sabbi Lall says:

    It depends how you measure of course. No self-respecting cat will chase and bring back an object their owner’s throwing away.

  7. Bob O'Hara says:

    True. I’ve shown, with many replicates over a long period of time that the object will either be ignored, or sniffed and then eaten or ignored. It’s how I exercise the Beast.
    Oh, and folks. Use dry cat food for this.