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Octopus intelligence


Moontanman

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In this video an octopus appears to lead a woman to a small cashe' of human artifacts including a photo of a human. Is it a reasonable conclusion that the octopus realized the possible value of a picture of a human or somehow thought a human would be interested in a picture of a human or even that the octopus connected the artifacts with the human due to the picture? If this is accurate it raises some real questions about just how intelligent an octopus really is. The video is 01:34 long, in my experience I've seen octopus do some unbelievable things but I never was able to decide if it was my own perspective that decided the octopus was acting as an intelligent agent or if the octopuses actions were actually intelligent independent of my own perception of its actions? 

 

 

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I've wondered about octopus intelligence because of their intelligent behavior (they test smarter than human toddlers, in some respects) and also things like having the highest encephalization quotient of any invertebrate, a degree of synaptic plasticity more associated with learning and memory centers of vertebrates, sophisticated control of 5 different types of chromatophores, and the whole "embodied" brain thing which is so unlike vertebrates.  My guess is that they do have a unique form of intelligence that we are only starting to be able to measure.  I have wondered if someday we  discover that they are able to use chromatophores as a sophisticated language system, and not just for camouflage or basic emotions.  Half a billion neurons is a lot, when you are invertebrate and weigh 6-20 lb.

Another factor is that they are both predators and prey.  This dual role usually makes more higher overall intelligence in the animal kingdom.

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10 minutes ago, Moontanman said:

Well that does raise it at least an order of magnitude, I'm not sure most adult humans would make that complex of a connection. 

My dogs certainly would.

(Don't know about your diving experiences, but I 'communicated' with dozens of octopi in their natural habitat. The latter includes divers.)

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22 minutes ago, Moontanman said:

if it was my own perspective that decided the octopus was acting as an intelligent agent or if the octopuses actions were actually intelligent independent of my own perception of its actions? 

In my own biased opinion, I always assumed that we underestimate animal intelligence. In part, because we cannot help but view it through our own experiences and hence, assume that anything closer to us (in appearance and behaviour) must also be more intelligent. A change is coming in that regard, though: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7555673/

When I did my undergrad, I was highly skeptical of some of the tests (such as the mirror test) as it presumes something about the animal (e.g. that the visual cue has any relevance to them). Moreover, typically only few animals are used in behavioural studies. If we were to study human behaviour, we would not (or at least should not) overinterpret the outcome. Yet, in animal studies folks often assume that there is less individual difference. I think most pet owners know that there is a lot of individual differences and only fairly recently studies have started to push to a change in the perspective of animal behaviour analysis. 

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26 minutes ago, Genady said:

My dogs certainly would.

(Don't know about your diving experiences, but I 'communicated' with dozens of octopi in their natural habitat. The latter includes divers.)

I do dive and I've had octopus who recognized me when I would approach, I often fed them, but I've kept a lot of them in aquaria, their behavior is fascinating! The ones around here are usually quite small seldom ever getting more than three feet across. 

BTW, three times in my life I've had an octopus crawl up out of the surf and attempt to crawl up my leg, I have no idea why.

6 minutes ago, CharonY said:

In my own biased opinion, I always assumed that we underestimate animal intelligence. In part, because we cannot help but view it through our own experiences and hence, assume that anything closer to us (in appearance and behaviour) must also be more intelligent. A change is coming in that regard, though: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7555673/

When I did my undergrad, I was highly skeptical of some of the tests (such as the mirror test) as it presumes something about the animal (e.g. that the visual cue has any relevance to them). Moreover, typically only few animals are used in behavioural studies. If we were to study human behaviour, we would not (or at least should not) overinterpret the outcome. Yet, in animal studies folks often assume that there is less individual difference. I think most pet owners know that there is a lot of individual differences and only fairly recently studies have started to push to a change in the perspective of animal behaviour analysis. 

 

I agree he mirror test is less than useful for many animals. My dogs would always walk up to a mirror and smell their image and walk away... I think they knew it wasn't real because it had no smell. A dogs world is less temporal than ours because of they know what happened before due to the smells they can "see" that we cannot. 

Edited by Moontanman
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4 hours ago, CharonY said:

In my own biased opinion, I always assumed that we underestimate animal intelligence. In part, because we cannot help but view it through our own experiences and hence, assume that anything closer to us (in appearance and behaviour) must also be more intelligent. A change is coming in that regard, though: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7555673/

When I did my undergrad, I was highly skeptical of some of the tests (such as the mirror test) as it presumes something about the animal (e.g. that the visual cue has any relevance to them). Moreover, typically only few animals are used in behavioural studies. If we were to study human behaviour, we would not (or at least should not) overinterpret the outcome. Yet, in animal studies folks often assume that there is less individual difference. I think most pet owners know that there is a lot of individual differences and only fairly recently studies have started to push to a change in the perspective of animal behaviour analysis. 

I recently re-joined Facebook and have been doom-scrolling endless animal videos by amateurs, and I have to say that there's more to many animals than meets the eye. Animals are not robots, completely driven by instinct.

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19 hours ago, Moontanman said:

Well that does raise it at least an order of magnitude, I'm not sure most adult humans would make that complex of a connection. 

I think his point is, the octopus had it's reasons and the woman put her own interpretation on the event; in the parlance of a ghost denier, she was primed, she knew the octopoid show intelligence.

It could be a simple as, "this is where I get fed by humans, so where is it bitch?".

19 hours ago, CharonY said:

In my own biased opinion, I always assumed that we underestimate animal intelligence. In part, because we cannot help but view it through our own experiences and hence, assume that anything closer to us (in appearance and behaviour) must also be more intelligent. A change is coming in that regard, though: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7555673/

When I did my undergrad, I was highly skeptical of some of the tests (such as the mirror test) as it presumes something about the animal (e.g. that the visual cue has any relevance to them). Moreover, typically only few animals are used in behavioural studies. If we were to study human behaviour, we would not (or at least should not) overinterpret the outcome. Yet, in animal studies folks often assume that there is less individual difference. I think most pet owners know that there is a lot of individual differences and only fairly recently studies have started to push to a change in the perspective of animal behaviour analysis. 

Absolutely, such hubris this is the test for self awareness "Harry, bring out the mirror and if they can't see it, they're either blind or stupid."

Sorry I didn't read the second paragraph before my reply, kinda hammered it home though. 🙂

Edited by dimreepr
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5 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

I think his point is, the octopus had it's reasons and the woman put her own interpretation on the event; in the parlance of a ghost denier, she was primed, she knew the octopoid show intelligence.

It could be a simple as, "this is where I get fed by humans".

I have to agree, we can only see it from our own biased perspective, from our perspective its provocative but it could be much more simple. On the other hand the octopus could be our intellectual superior and thinks of us as animals who are relatively smart but can't really understand true communication via chromatophores.

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21 hours ago, TheVat said:

I've wondered about octopus intelligence because of their intelligent behavior (they test smarter than human toddlers, in some respects) and also things like having the highest encephalization quotient of any invertebrate, a degree of synaptic plasticity more associated with learning and memory centers of vertebrates, sophisticated control of 5 different types of chromatophores, and the whole "embodied" brain thing which is so unlike vertebrates.  My guess is that they do have a unique form of intelligence that we are only starting to be able to measure.  I have wondered if someday we  discover that they are able to use chromatophores as a sophisticated language system, and not just for camouflage or basic emotions.  Half a billion neurons is a lot, when you are invertebrate and weigh 6-20 lb.

Another factor is that they are both predators and prey.  This dual role usually makes more higher overall intelligence in the animal kingdom.

Very interesting points.

I don't seem to remember (or successfully google up) the name of a very influencial biologist (American/Australian/British...?) who called for more attention to cephalopods, and proposed to study them as models of radically different body plans that could be the basis of intelligent multicellular life other than mammalian. I'm sure you know who I'm talking about... 

Very interesting topic btw.

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22 hours ago, Moontanman said:

I agree he mirror test is less than useful for many animals. My dogs would always walk up to a mirror and smell their image and walk away... I think they knew it wasn't real because it had no smell. A dogs world is less temporal than ours because of they know what happened before due to the smells they can "see" that we cannot. 

There is also a lot of individual variation. Some of my dogs seeing a mirror the first time were at least curious, others basically immediately dismissed, one of the dumber ones barked a few times before realizing that no one else was reacting and so on. One of the issues that are often not documented (because they don't make a good hypothesis-driven paper) is that animals fail tasks because they are simply not interested.

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2 hours ago, joigus said:

 

I don't seem to remember (or successfully google up) the name of a very influencial biologist (American/Australian/British...?) who called for more attention to cephalopods, and proposed to study them as models of radically different body plans that could be the basis of intelligent multicellular life other than mammalian. I'm sure you know who I'm talking about... 

 

Could be either Rachel Carson or E. O. Wilson (though he was a bug guy, not a marine biologist).  There is also Stephen Hart, though he is probably not "very influential."  

Oh crap, wait, it has to Loren Eiseley.  Damn, we grew up in the same town and I once lived a couple of blocks from his childhood home in Nebraska.  Yeah, he was a big cephalopod fan.  

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Wilson was more known for his work on sociobiology (which is not really much of a thing as a whole), plus some more problematic opinions outside. There is a bit of a rush of fairly recent work on cephalopod cognition.

I think papers really started to ramp up only after 2000 and some of the authors that pop up are Jennifer Mather, Anil Seth and more recently Alexandra Schnell.

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