Dolphins: Measuring Intelligence

music
ambience: underwater dolphin ambience with whistles – experiement

We know that dolphins are intelligent animals, but how can we begin to measure and understand that intelligence? I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Diana Reis is a senior research scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society at the NY Aquarium.

“A number of different kinds of studies have indicated that dolphins show many of the higher cognitive abilities that we also find in the larger brained primates like chimpanzees. The question has been, how do they think?”

To help answer that question, Reis designed a remarkable experiment.

“We gave dolphins an underwater keyboard. Now that may seem kind of strange, but I wanted to see what would happen if we gave a large brained animal something so that it could control aspects of its environment. So we, we created this keyboard. They had different visual forms on it that we knew they could discriminate from other tests we’ve done. If they hit a key, the computer put a whistle into their tank. And these whistles were designed so they were different than the whistles the dolphins did themselves. And then, if they hit a key, they heard a whistle and they got an object. So for example, if one of the dolphins hit the triangle, it would hear a whistle like whistles and it would get a ball. If it hit another signal – symbol that was an H shape, it would hear whistle and it would give it a rug. So it basically controlled us. And it was a very rudimentary way of giving them some control, and we learned a great deal about their abilities. We learned for example that they would imitate these signals. We knew that they imitated sounds, but we saw how rapidly they can imitate, how well they can imitate. They did it with great fidelity. And they actually started to associate the sounds with the objects and the symbols on the keyboard. And that was the first study that really gave us a glimpse with this rapidity with which they could learn.”

We’ll hear more about dolphin intelligence in future programs.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

music

Dolphins: Measuring Intelligence

A game of sounds and symbols is playful to dolphins, and a measure of their intelligence to scientists.
Air Date:10/01/2003
Scientist:
Transcript:


music
ambience: underwater dolphin ambience with whistles - experiement

We know that dolphins are intelligent animals, but how can we begin to measure and understand that intelligence? I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Diana Reis is a senior research scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society at the NY Aquarium.

"A number of different kinds of studies have indicated that dolphins show many of the higher cognitive abilities that we also find in the larger brained primates like chimpanzees. The question has been, how do they think?"

To help answer that question, Reis designed a remarkable experiment.

"We gave dolphins an underwater keyboard. Now that may seem kind of strange, but I wanted to see what would happen if we gave a large brained animal something so that it could control aspects of its environment. So we, we created this keyboard. They had different visual forms on it that we knew they could discriminate from other tests we've done. If they hit a key, the computer put a whistle into their tank. And these whistles were designed so they were different than the whistles the dolphins did themselves. And then, if they hit a key, they heard a whistle and they got an object. So for example, if one of the dolphins hit the triangle, it would hear a whistle like whistles and it would get a ball. If it hit another signal - symbol that was an H shape, it would hear whistle and it would give it a rug. So it basically controlled us. And it was a very rudimentary way of giving them some control, and we learned a great deal about their abilities. We learned for example that they would imitate these signals. We knew that they imitated sounds, but we saw how rapidly they can imitate, how well they can imitate. They did it with great fidelity. And they actually started to associate the sounds with the objects and the symbols on the keyboard. And that was the first study that really gave us a glimpse with this rapidity with which they could learn."

We'll hear more about dolphin intelligence in future programs.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

music