Humans, chimpanzees, parrots, and crows have evolved to exercise self-control, a trait linked to superior intelligence. Now researchers say cuttlefish, chunky squid-like creatures with eight arms, also have the ability to delay gratification for a better reward.
The researchers used an adapted version of Stanford’s marshmallow test, in which children had the option of either teasing an immediate reward (one marshmallow) or waiting to earn a delayed, but better reward (two marshmallows), on six cuttlefish. in an aquarium environment.
The invertebrates were presented with cameras that were marked with different visual cues in the form of shapes. For example, one signal meant that the moment food was placed in that chamber, the door would open, while another meant that when food was placed in that chamber, there would be a delay before the door was opened. One of the signs was counterintuitive: even though the food was placed in the chamber and the door opened, there was an additional layer of plastic that prevented the cuttlefish from eating the reward.
When the cuttlefish were initially exposed to the cameras, they immediately attacked when they saw the food. Over time, they realized that each chamber had its own rules. Finally, the mollusks did not even bother to approach the “unreachable” chamber because they learned that they could never secure access to food.
Once the training was completed, the cuttlefish were tested in the presence of two chambers: in the “immediate” chamber they were presented with their second preference food, while in the “delay” chamber they were given their first preference food.
In the control configuration, these conditions were reflected, except that the delay chamber was the unreachable chamber. “We wanted to see if they were able to exercise self-control in a flexible way depending on the context,” said lead author Dr Alex Schnell, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Cambridge.
“They could see their favorite food in the unreachable chamber, but they could never get to it, so they needed to make a decision whether to try it or just make the immediate option.”
In general, cuttlefish delayed gratification when driving higher quality prey and were able to sustain delays for periods of up to 50 seconds to 130 seconds, according to the authors. wrote in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Previous research had suggested that some primates and birds exhibited this advanced level of self-control because they were social species that maintained multiple relationships and used tools, Schnell said.
These species may not forage or hunt at a particular time so they can build tools or wait until their partner has eaten, he noted. “But that does not apply to cuttlefish … they are not social and do not use tools.”
Instead, self-control could have evolved in cuttlefish to maximize efficiency, he speculated. “They are a juicy food… so they spend a lot of time in camouflage and remain almost immobile to avoid detection by predators. And this immobile behavior is broken when the cuttlefish feeds ”.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism