How do scientists measure animals’ intelligence?

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How exactly do scientists measure this intelligence across different species? What methods, tests, or observations do researchers use to assess the cognitive abilities of animals? And especially I am curious about how do they range animals according to their IQ level? How can one compare raccoons (with their physical ability to do something using their fingers) and, for example, pigs?

In: Planetary Science

6 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

They dont. We dont measure intelligence in animals we dont even know what intelligence realy is.

Instead we study how animals act in classic tests that test some aspect of intelligence. Like using tools to get something or solving a maze.

None of this measures intelligence.

IQ test are already controversial and dont work on animals at all. So there is no real measurement for intelligence.

If someone claims “dogs are intelligent animals” that does not mean that they did some scientific IQ test on the dog before, its just a calim.

Anonymous 0 Comments

I know that recognising yourself in a mirror is a big one. Including painting stuff on the animal’s face to see if they notice the change.

Use of tools regardless of what the tool is.

Also I think ‘play’ is also a bench mark like doing something social for no purpose.

Vocalisation for warning of predators.

Anonymous 0 Comments

There’s no single rubric for measuring animal intelligence because they’ve all evolved their own specialized intelligence for their own purposes.

A scarlet macaw can remember many dozens of different individual bird calls that it uses to identify specific birds by “name” and gossip with them when they’re making a tremendous racket up in a banana tree. They’re very social animals and have a high level of socialization-specific intelligence. They can remember individuals, learn a large vocabulary, reproduce sounds they hear, and convey information to others.

A falcon doesn’t do this. It’s a solitary predator that spends its time hunting and tracking prey. It’s evolved an incredible visual processing system that lets it pinpoint a tiny rodent from hundreds of feet away and then enter a controlled dive to pick it off.

The falcon doesn’t chat up the gang around the ol’ banana bunch and the macaw can’t bullseye a field mouse at 130mph, but they’re both very good at what they do.

We try to compare the problem solving skills of different species to gauge their relative intelligence, but even designing a “problem” that both a crow and a boa constrictor might attempt to solve is a difficult question. Crows spend all day dicking around with nut shells and roadkill so they’re always eager to fiddle with a food box, but an ambush predator has little tolerance for that and won’t even bother.

Anonymous 0 Comments

A lot of the tests used to measure animal intelligence are adapted from those used to measure the intelligence of human children. For example, the mirror test can determine whether an animal has sufficient self-understanding to grasp whether their reflection is a representation of themselves. Puzzles can be constructed to see if the animals can figure out how to solve them. These same tests have been used on children to see when various mental faculties develop as they age, which is why you’ll often see studies saying, “This species has a level of intelligence equivalent to a 5-year-old child.”

Of course, the big issue with these tests is that they use the human mind as the baseline because we’re really the only animals that can articulate our inner workings in a way that other humans can understand on a deep level. There can easily be forms of intelligence that we can’t grok because our brains aren’t equipped for them and the animals that exhibit them can’t tell us about them.

Anonymous 0 Comments

I read about one attempt to handle the “many types of intelligence” problem that I thought was interesting:

How many lines of code would it take to program a computer to do the most complicated problem [insert animal] can solve?

Obviously still lots of problems, but I thought it was a cool way to think about comparing types of intelligence.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The tests are for the most part the same as ours. The real trick is getting them to hold the little #2 pencils in their paws.