A recent study showed that monkeys can make logical choices when given an A or B scenario.
- For centuries, humans have wondered which cognitive abilities animals share with people.
- In a new study, researchers presented baboons with a "hidden-item" task designed to test their understanding of disjunctive syllogisms.
- The results showed that the baboons were not only successful in the task, but also displayed signs of confidence in their decision making.
Credit: Ferrigno et al.<p>The task was set up like this: A researcher and a baboon were separated by a cage. In front of the researcher was a wooden board, on top of which were four cylinders. The wooden board could be moved into the baboon's side of the cage, where the baboon could make a decision by pointing to a cylinder.</p><p>The researcher started by lifting all cylinders to reveal they're empty. She showed the monkey a grape. To prevent the baboon from seeing where the grape went, she'd place an occluder in front of two of the four cylinders, and then placed the grape in one of the two cylinders. The researcher then slid the occluder over to the remaining set of two cylinders and repeated this process.</p><p>So, one grape went into one of the two cylinders in the first set, another grape went into one of the two cylinders in the second set. For example: either cylinder 1 or 2 has a grape; either 3 or 4 has a grape.</p><p>The baboon was then presented with the board to make a decision. The baboon indicated its choice by pointing to one of the four cylinders. If the baboon guessed correctly, it got the treat. If it guessed incorrectly, the researcher revealed that the cylinder was empty. No matter the outcome, the researcher pulled away the wooden board for a few seconds, and then presented it again so the baboon could make a second choice.</p><p>Why set up the experiment like this? The baboons already seemed to have a solid grasp of the two-cup hidden-item task (given A or B, if not A, then B). But the four-cup task put their understanding of it to the test: If the baboons were indeed reasoning through a disjunctive syllogism, they would understand that there's a dependent relationship between each set of two cups.</p>
Ferrigno et al.<p>In other words, they would understand that if cup 3 was empty, they should stay within that same set and point to cup 4, <em>not </em>switch their focus to the next set by pointing to cup 1 or 2.</p><p>The baboons seemed to understand this logic, according to the study results.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Specifically, when subjects chose an empty location first, they were more likely to stay in the same baiting set and choose the other cylinder in the set (59% of trials, 271/463) than switch to the other set (41% of trials, 192/463)," the researchers wrote. "Conversely, when subjects chose a cylinder containing a grape for their first choice, they were more likely to switch to the other baiting set and choose either one of the two cylinders (66% of trials, 267/403) than stay in the same set (34% of trials, 136/403)."</p>
Ferrigno et al.<p>What's more, the baboons often displayed confidence in their decisions: When they discovered that a cylinder within a set was empty, some of them began pointing at the remaining cylinder before the wooden board was even presented to them. The baboons "prepointed" correctly 79 percent of the time.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Overall, our results show that nonhuman primates have the capacity to represent the abstract, combinatorial, or logical thought required to reason through a nonverbal disjunctive syllogism," the researchers wrote. "To date, this has been shown only in children of at least 3 years old and in a single African gray parrot."</p><p>But while the researchers said their results indicate that monkeys have a "higher level nonverbal cognition," further research is needed to determine exactly what that cognitive mechanism is.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It is unknown how widespread this ability is at the population level, a question that should be addressed in future research. Furthermore, the precise mechanism by which animals reason through a nonverbal disjunctive syllogism requires detailed study."</p>
Study confirms the existence of a special kind of groupthink in large groups.
- Large groups of people everywhere tend to come to the same conclusions.
- In small groups, there's a much wider diversity of ideas.
- The mechanics of a large group make some ideas practically inevitable.
The grouping game<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTQ1NDE2Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NTMzNTA4OX0.onCxz1Ea1UdLBRvuuBZrSTQDgol_gXxRMfLhpEy-ZYw/img.jpg?width=980" id="a7e22" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0feb15d2d7dde144c710c2f4f1e5350c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="2767" data-height="382" />
Some of the shapes used in the experiment
Credit: Guilbeault, et al./University of Pennsylvania<p>The researchers tested their theory with 1,480 people playing an online "Grouping Game" via Amazon's Mechanical Turk platform. The individuals were paired with another participant or made a member of a group of 6, 8, 24, or 50 people. Each pair and group were tasked with categorizing the symbols shown above, and they could see each other's answers.</p><p>The small groups came up with wildly divergent categories—the entire experiment produced nearly 5,000 category suggestions—while the larger groups came up with categorization systems that were virtually identical to each other.</p><p><a href="https://www.asc.upenn.edu/news-events/news/why-independent-cultures-think-alike-its-not-in-the-brain" target="_blank">Says Centola</a>, "Even though we predicted it, I was nevertheless stunned to see it really happen. This result challenges many long-held ideas about culture and how it forms."</p><p>Nor was this unanimity a matter of having teamed-up like-minded individuals. "If I assign an individual to a small group," says lead author Douglas Guilbeault, "they are much more likely to arrive at a category system that is very idiosyncratic and specific to them. But if I assign that same individual to a large group, I can predict the category system that they will end up creating, regardless of whatever unique viewpoint that person happens to bring to the table."</p>
Why this happens<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTQ1NDE4NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjkzMDg0Nn0.u2hdEIgNw4drFZ2frzx0AJ_MAxIizuM98rdovQrIblk/img.jpg?width=980" id="d3444" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5da57d66e388fad0f1c17afb09af90a7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="822" />
The many categories suggested by small groups on the left, the few from large groups on the right
Credit: Guilbeault, et al./Nature Communications<p>The striking results of the experiment correspond to a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-019-0607-5" target="_blank">previous study</a> done by NDG that investigated tipping points for people's behavior in networks.</p><p>That study concluded that after an idea enters a discussion among a large network of people, it can gain irresistible traction by popping up again and again in enough individuals' conversations. In networks of 50 people or more, such ideas eventually reach critical mass and become a prevailing opinion.</p><p>The same phenomenon does not happen often enough within a smaller network, where fewer interactions offer an idea less of an opportunity to take hold.</p>
Beyond categories<p>The study's finding raises an interesting practical possibility: Would categorization-related decisions made by large groups be less likely to fall prey to members' individual biases?</p><p>With this question in mind, the researchers are currently looking into content moderation on Facebook and Twitter. They're investigating whether the platforms would be wiser when categorizing content as free speech or hate speech if large groups were making these decisions instead of lone individuals working at these companies.</p><p>Similarly, they're also exploring the possibility that larger networks of doctors and healthcare professionals might be better at making diagnoses that would avoid biases such as racism or sexism that could cloud the judgment of individual practitioners.</p><p>"Many of the worst social problems reappear in every culture," notes Centola, "which leads some to believe these problems are intrinsic to the human condition. Our research shows that these problems are intrinsic to the social experiences humans have, not necessarily to humans themselves. If we can alter that social experience, we can change the way people organize things, and address some of the world's greatest problems."</p>
There is a neurological link between serotonin levels and the brain's ability to control impulses and patience levels.
- Prior research has suggested a possible link between a lack of serotonin receptors in the brain and impulsive behaviors.
- A recent study from the Neural Computation Unit at the OIST explored this further, resulting in evidence that there is in fact a neurological factor to the brain's ability to control impulses and manage patience.
- This research could reveal more data on how serotonin impacts regions of the brain, which could eventually lead to the development of new drug treatments for conditions such as depression and addiction, among others.
Three areas of the brain can impact your patience and impulse control<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDkyNzM4NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTU0MTY2N30.H4KxmhLt2KIOLn0QP_ipXIi5zKy8e-R-2c6ZDkEoCCk/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=2%2C0%2C3%2C0&height=700" id="9417b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1dd54d9f28f08f4d2c447cbb74caa4f5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="neuron impulse control patience 3D rendering neurons" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
What role does biology really play in our ability to be patient and control our impulses?
Credit: whitehoune on Adobe Stock<p>The Neural Computation Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) ran the<a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/48/eabc7246" target="_blank"> latest study</a>, which focused on three parts of the brain:</p><ol><li>NAc - nucleus accumbens, which has been previously studied as a key region in the brain that mediates a variety of behaviors, including reward and satisfaction.</li><li>OFC - orbitofrontal cortex, which is considered to have a role in higher-order cognition (like decision-making).</li><li>mPFC - medial prefrontal cortex, which is among the brain regions that have the highest baseline metabolic activity. This part of the brain is also suggested to mediate decision-making.</li></ol><p>According to <a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/brain-regions-found-where-serotonin-boosts-patience-impulse-control#Serotonin,-patience,-and-the-brain" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Medical News Today</a>, the team chose these regions of the brain because prior research has shown that damage to them leads to an increase in impulsive behaviors. </p><p>The mice were later divided into groups; one group had the optic fibers in the NAc part of the brain, one group had the optic fibers inserted into the OFC part of the brain, and the last group had optic fibers put into the mPFC parts of the brain. The team then observed how each group responded to serotonin stimulation. </p><p>To take their research to the next level, the team used mice that were genetically engineered to have specialized proteins that release serotonin on exposure to photostimulation. The mice were trained to poke their nose inside a hole (to wait for a food item). Then, they underwent surgery in which researchers implanted an optic fiber into the DRN part of the brains of the mice.</p><p>Seventy-five perfect of the mice were put through the waiting task again while activating a serotonin release through a light stimulation procedure. The other 25 percent went into an "omission" group that received no rewards or serotonin stimulation. </p><p><strong>The results of this study prove serotonin plays a role in patience and impulse control.<br><br></strong>When the research team activated the serotonergic neurons in the DRN of the mice, they displayed improved patience when waiting for food rewards. Stimulating the OFC area was almost as effective as stimulating the DRN area in promoting these prolonged wait times in the mice. However, triggering the NAc had no impact.</p><p>A particularly interesting part of this study was that, upon stimulating the mPFC region of the brain in the mice, their ability to wait for the food reward was enhanced but only when they did not know the food's arrival time. These results suggest that serotonin in the mPFC can impact the animal's ability to evaluate the time required to wait for a reward. Meanwhile, the neurochemical's presence in the OFC assists in the overall assessment of a delayed reward. </p><p>"This confirmed the idea that these two brain areas are calculating the probability of a reward independently from each other and that these independent calculations are then combined to ultimately determine how long the mice will wait," Dr. Miyazaki told <a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/brain-regions-found-where-serotonin-boosts-patience-impulse-control#Serotonin,-patience,-and-the-brain" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Medical News Today</a>.</p><p>This research could reveal more data on how serotonin impacts regions of the brain, which could eventually lead to the development of new drug treatments for conditions such as depression and addiction, among others.</p>
Philosophers have been asking the question for hundreds of years. Now neuroscientists are joining the quest to find out.
- The debate over whether or not humans have free will is centuries old and ongoing. While studies have confirmed that our brains perform many tasks without conscious effort, there remains the question of how much we control and when it matters.
- According to Dr. Uri Maoz, it comes down to what your definition of free will is and to learning more about how we make decisions versus when it is ok for our brain to subconsciously control our actions and movements.
- "If we understand the interplay between conscious and unconscious," says Maoz, "it might help us realize what we can control and what we can't."
A 2020 study published in the journal of Psychological Science explores the idea that fake news can actually help you remember real facts better.
- In 2019, researchers at Stanford Engineering analyzed the spread of fake news as if it were a strain of Ebola. They adapted a model for understanding diseases that can infect a person more than once to better understand how fake news spreads and gains traction.
- A new study published in 2020 explores the idea that fake news can actually help you remember real facts better.
- "These findings demonstrate one situation in which misinformation reminders can diminish the negative effects of fake-news exposure in the short term," researchers on the project explained.
Previous studies on misinformation have already paved the way to a better understanding<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU1NzQ4NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNjE2Mjg1Nn0.hs_xHktN1KXUDVoWpHIVBI2sMJy6aRK6tvBVFkqmYjk/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C800%2C0%2C823&height=700" id="fc135" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="246bb1920c0f40ccb15e123914de1ab1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="fake news concept of misinformation and fake news in the media" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
How does misinformation spread?
Credit: Visual Generation on Shutterstock<p><strong>What is the "continued-influence" effect?</strong></p><p>A challenge in using corrections effectively is that repeating the misinformation can have negative consequences. Research on this effect (referred to as "continued-influence") has shown that information presented as factual that is later deemed false can still contaminate memory and reasoning. The persistence of the continued-influence effect has led researchers to generally recommend avoiding repeating misinformation. </p><p>"Repetition increases familiarity and believability of misinformation," <a href="https://engineering.stanford.edu/magazine/article/how-fake-news-spreads-real-virus" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the study explains</a>.</p><p><strong>What is the "familiarity-backfire" effect?</strong></p><p>Studies of this effect have shown that increasing misinformation familiarity through extra exposure to it leads to misattributions of fluency when the context of said information cannot be recalled. <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797620952797#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2017 study</a> examined this effect in myth correction. Subjects rated beliefs in facts and myths of unclear veracity. Then, the facts were affirmed and myths corrected and subjects again made belief ratings. The results suggested a role for familiarity but the myth beliefs remained below pre-manipulation levels. </p>