Hyenas That Think Outside the Box Solve Problems Faster

ScienceDaily (Aug. 8, 2012) — Innovative problem solving requires trying many different solutions. That’s true for humans, and now Michigan State University researchers show that it’s true for hyenas, too.

MSU researchers show that hyenas must think out of the box to solve puzzles. (Credit: Photo courtesy of MSU.)

 

The study, published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, presented steel puzzle boxes with raw meat inside to wild spotted hyenas in Kenya. To get the meat, the hyenas had to slide open a bolt latch. Even though most of the animals had many opportunities to open the box, only nine out of 62 hyenas succeeded. The successful hyenas tried more solutions, including biting, flipping or pushing the box, than the ones that failed, said MSU zoology graduate student Sarah Benson-Amram.

Another requirement for success was not being afraid to approach new things. The wild hyenas had never seen a steel puzzle box before. And those hyenas that quickly contacted the box when they first saw it were more successful solving the problem than those hyenas that were slower to approach it. Although contacting unknown objects can be quite dangerous for wild animals, this research shows that risk-taking also has some benefits.

Surprisingly, one trait that did not necessarily lead to victory was persistence, said Benson-Amram.

“While those who gave up quickly were more likely to fail, some hyenas that spent more time with the puzzle box appeared to get stuck in a rut and would often try the same solutions over and over again,” she said.

Like humans and other primates, hyenas have relatively large brains, said Kay Holekamp, MSU zoologist and co-author of the paper.

“A likely benefit of large brains is the ability to think flexibly about new situations and come up with solutions to novel problems,” said Holekamp, co-principal investigator at the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action.

The research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation.

 

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided byMichigan State University.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Benson-Amram, K. E. Holekamp. Innovative problem solving by wild spotted hyenasProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2012; DOI:10.1098/rspb.2012.1450
Citation:

Michigan State University (2012, August 8). Hyenas that think outside the box solve problems faster. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 10, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120808163201.htm
Advertisements

Why Do Older Adults Display More Positive Emotion? It Might Have to Do With What They’re Looking at

ScienceDaily (Aug. 8, 2012) — Research has shown that older adults display more positive emotions and are quicker to regulate out of negative emotional states than younger adults. Given the declines in cognitive functioning and physical health that tend to come with age, we might expect that age would be associated with worse moods, not better ones.

(Credit: quietwaterscoaching.com)


 

So what explains older adults’ positive mood regulation?

In a new article in the August issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, researcher Derek Isaacowitz of Northeastern University explores positive looking as one possible explanation: older adults may be better at regulating emotion because they tend to direct their eyes away from negative material or toward positive material.

Isaacowitz presents evidence indicating that, compared to younger adults, older adults prefer positive looking patterns and they show the most positive looking when they are in bad moods, even though this is when younger adults show the most negative looking.

Research conducted by Isaacowitz and colleagues indicates that there is actually a causal relationship between positive looking and mood: for adults with good attentional abilities, positive looking patterns can help to regulate their mood.

Although older adults prefer to focus on positive stimuli, the research shows that they aren’t necessarily missing any salient or important information.

 

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided byAssociation for Psychological Science.

 


Journal Reference:

  1. D. M. Isaacowitz. Mood Regulation in Real Time: Age Differences in the Role of LookingCurrent Directions in Psychological Science, 2012; 21 (4): 237 DOI:10.1177/0963721412448651
Citation:

Association for Psychological Science (2012, August 8). Why do older adults display more positive emotion? It might have to do with what they’re looking at. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 10, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120808132715.htm

Learning: Stressed People Use Different Strategies and Brain Regions

ScienceDaily (Aug. 8, 2012) — Stressed and non-stressed people use different brain regions and different strategies when learning. This has been reported by the cognitive psychologists PD Dr. Lars Schwabe and Professor Oliver Wolf from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum in theJournal of Neuroscience. Non-stressed individuals applied a deliberate learning strategy, while stressed subjects relied more on their gut feeling. “These results demonstrate for the first time that stress has an influence on which of the different memory systems the brain turns on,” said Lars Schwabe.

(Credit: http://www.stressmanagementblog.com/)

The experiment: Stress due to ice-water

The data from 59 subjects were included in the study. Half of the participants had to immerse one hand into ice-cold water for three minutes under video surveillance. This stressed the subjects, as hormone assays showed. The other participants had to immerse one of their hands just in warm water. Then both the stressed and non-stressed individuals completed the so-calledweather prediction task. The subjects looked at playing cards with different symbols and learned to predict which combinations of cards announced rain and which sunshine. Each combination of cards was associated with a certain probability of good or bad weather. People apply differently complex strategies in order to master the task. During the weather prediction task, the researchers recorded the brain activity with MRI.

Two routes to success

Both stressed and non-stressed subjects learned to predict the weather according to the symbols. Non-stressed participants focused on individual symbols and not on combinations of symbols. They consciously pursued a simple strategy. The MRI data showed that they activated a brain region in the medial temporal lobe — the hippocampus, which is important for long-term memory. Stressed subjects, on the other hand, applied a more complex strategy. They made ​​their decisions based on the combination of symbols. They did this, however, subconsciously, i.e. they were not able to formulate their strategy in words. The result of the brain scans was also accordingly: In the case of the stressed volunteers the so-called striatum in the mid-brain was activated — a brain region that is responsible for more unconscious learning. “Stress interferes with conscious, purposeful learning, which is dependent upon the hippocampus,” concluded Lars Schwabe. “So that makes the brain use other resources. In the case of stress, the striatum controls behaviour — which saves the learning achievement.”

 


Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided byRuhr-Universitaet-Bochum.


Journal Reference:

  1. L. Schwabe, O. Wolf. Stress modulates the engagement of multiple memory systems in classification learning.Journal of Neuroscience, 2012 DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1484-12.2012
Citation:

Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum (2012, August 8). Learning: Stressed people use different strategies and brain regions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 9, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120808081336.htm

 

Scientists Discover the Truth Behind Colbert’s ‘Truthiness

ScienceDaily (Aug. 8, 2012) — A picture inflates the perceived truth of true and false claims.

(Credit: Magritte)


 

Trusting research over their guts, scientists in New Zealand and Canada examined the phenomenon Stephen Colbert, comedian and news satirist, calls “truthiness” — the feeling that something is true. In four different experiments they discovered that people believe claims are true, regardless of whether they actually are true, when a decorative photograph appears alongside the claim. The work is published online in the Springer journal, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

“We wanted to examine how the kinds of photos people see every day — the ones that decorate newspaper or TV headlines, for example — might produce “truthiness,” said lead investigator Eryn J. Newman of Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. “We were really surprised by what we found.”

In a series of four experiments in both New Zealand and Canada, Newman and colleagues showed people a series of claims such as, “The liquid metal inside a thermometer is magnesium” and asked them to agree or disagree that each claim was true. In some cases, the claim appeared with a decorative photograph that didn’t reveal if the claim was actually true — such as a thermometer. Other claims appeared alone. When a decorative photograph appeared with the claim, people were more likely to agree that the claim was true, regardless of whether it was actually true.

Across all the experiments, the findings fit with the idea that photos might help people conjure up images and ideas about the claim more easily than if the claim appeared by itself. “We know that when it’s easy for people to bring information to mind, it ‘feels’ right,” said Newman.

The research has important implications for situations in which people encounter decorative photos, such as in the media or in education. “Decorative photos grab people’s attention,” Newman said. “Our research suggests that these photos might have unintended consequences, leading people to accept information because of their feelings rather than the facts.”

 

Link:

http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=123043&CultureCode=en

Journal Reference:

Eryn J. Newman, Maryanne Garry, Daniel M. Bernstein, Justin Kantner, D. Stephen Lindsay. Nonprobative photographs (or words) inflate truthinessPsychonomic Bulletin & Review, 2012; DOI: 10.3758/s13423-012-0292-0

Citation:

Springer Science+Business Media (2012, August 8). Scientists discover the truth behind Colbert’s ‘truthiness’. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 9, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120808081334.htm