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Video: Trial And Error And Learning Through Observation (Part 10)
Many living beings, including ourselves, learn through trial and error. They try to do something and they fail. And the next time they come across the same problem, if they are smart enough, they will try a different way of solving it.
Experimentally, intellectual abilities of this kind are often determined using various puzzles. For example, to get to food, an animal must go through a maze and / or press the correct lever. Both dogs and cats can be trained in this way, although cats do not perform as well for food rewards (alternatively, water can be given, but cats can survive without water for several days before deigning to cooperate).
Learning by observation is widely discussed in research circles. Some scientists believe that when one cat observes how another solves a problem, its attention is focused only on the problem itself, and not on its solution.
Although anthropocentric theorists argue that only humans and primates can learn from observing others, cat owners in turn argue that cats can learn through observation and trial and error.
Kittens learn hunting skills by watching their mom and trying to copy her actions. They are then refined using trial and error. In other words, observation tells them what to do and how, and trial and error translate this knowledge into a practical plane, and thus the kitten's body reaches perfection.
Some researchers argue that mother cats simulate situations that awaken and hone kittens' innate instincts. When the kittens grow up a little and become more active, the cat brings the prey to her house. At first, she simply eats the prey herself or together with the kittens. She then brings the live prey to the kittens and lets them play with it. At first, the cat itself catches the fleeing prey and kills it if the kittens are not yet able to do this. Later, she grants the right to kill the prey to the kittens themselves, even later, the kittens follow their mother, watching her hunt. If you are unfamiliar with your own cat's habits, you might want to watch cheetah documentaries on TV on a larger scale.
Mother cats simulate situations in which kittens can develop natural behavior skills. Can kittens learn by watching their mother and copying her actions? In laboratory experiments, kittens at the age of 9-10 weeks were asked to observe an unfamiliar demonstration cat, which, by a light signal, would press a lever to get food. By observing an adult cat, the kittens learned to perform the same task. A control group of kittens, unable to observe the demonstrator, did not learn to perform this task, despite trying for a month. If the demonstrator was their own mother, then the kittens learned the light - lever - food trick in an average of 4 and a half days (if the demonstrator was an unfamiliar cat, then it took 18 days). And it took another 3 and a half days to accurately press the lever if the mother was the demonstrator and 14 days if the kittens had to watch an unfamiliar cat. Observing a cat experimentally mastering some skills was more effective than observing a demonstrator who had previously learned how to perform this task. One of the factors influencing the results of experiments is the rules of feline etiquette. Kittens, by their very nature, cannot openly look at other people's cats, as this is considered a manifestation of hostile intentions. The only exception to this rule is the relationship between a cat and kittens. Therefore, kittens can carefully observe the mother, without violating the rules of feline etiquette.as this is considered a manifestation of hostile intentions. The only exception to this rule is the relationship between a cat and kittens. Therefore, kittens can carefully observe the mother, without violating the rules of feline etiquette.as this is considered a manifestation of hostile intentions. The only exception to this rule is the relationship between a cat and kittens. Therefore, kittens can carefully observe the mother, without violating the rules of feline etiquette.
Some skeptical scientists, as well as adherents of the anthropocentric theory, believe that the most that kittens can learn is not to be afraid of a device for conducting experiments and that the trick of light - lever - food is mastered only by the most courageous and confident kittens and they do it by trial and mistakes. Just watching their own mother gives them more confidence than watching someone else's cat. Other scientists generously agree that by observing another cat, kittens understand that there is some kind of connection between light, lever and food, but they can only determine the exact connection between these links by trial and error.
Sometimes kittens were deliberately misled. They were asked to observe the cat, which received food by approaching the device, but without pressing the lever. These kittens had a harder time learning how to pull the lever compared to those kittens who did not see this “cheating” experience.
Kittens copy not only behavior, but also their mother's food habits. If a cat is taught to eat unusual foods, such as bananas or mashed potatoes, then the kittens it feeds (5 weeks old) will begin to prefer these foods to meat or any other foods that are more natural for them. This tendency continues throughout their later life. (In the experiment, unusual foods are enriched with all the essential nutrients.) This is why it is so important to provide a varied diet for mom and kittens - otherwise you will develop an addiction to unhealthy or hard-to-digest foods. Kittens' copying of maternal food preferences becomes pronounced towards the end of the feeding period (7-8 weeks).
Adult cats can learn a skill much faster by observing another animal or person than by using conditioned reflexes (in this case, food rewards). For example, watching a companion cat steal food from the table or how the owner opens the door, cats quickly learn these actions. Many cats can draw milk or other food from a closed container using their paws. Thus, they use their "angler instinct". There are many interesting testimonies of how cats learn by observing people or pets such as dogs.
There is an alternative point of view on the problem of learning cats, proposed by the owner of domestic cats, Sasha Scofield. She notes that a young, shy, less socialized cat adopts many of the behaviors when watching an older, more confident cat. Sasha Scofield believes that it is safer to try some new actions, first observing a representative of his own species, and only then imitate these actions, and that such behavior can be regarded as a manifestation of intelligence, and not just instinct.
There are many domestic cats who have learned to use the doorknob as a lever, pull the refrigerator door, and more by simply observing the owner and then trying to repeat his actions. Do they learn by copying people's actions? Are they just trying to play with the subject? Or do they understand that there is some kind of causal relationship between the object and the goal, and this connection should they reveal?
Related article Cats that can count (part 11)
When observing domestic cats, many tend to think that cats learn something by first observing and then trying to do the same. It may not be possible to prove this in the laboratory, since animals that do not resemble humans or even primates are not provided with the correct motivation.
Cats have some kind of association between the door handle and the opening of the door. Through trial and error, they jump on this handle and, in the end, their own weight does the job. When they receive a positive result, they remember this action. If the handle is ball-shaped, then trial and error does not work, the cat does not receive any reward, but it will still try. Perhaps the cat watched people open a door with such a handle, and she had an association between the handle and opening the door. However, there is at least one pair of cats that have learned to open a door with a ball handle. One cat stood at the door, the second climbed onto its back and manipulated the handle with its front paws. Most likely, she did not understand that the knob needed to be turned, but she knewthat the handle is an important part of the process of opening the door and coma, she knew that she needed to stand on something in order to reach this very handle.