Cuttlefish Passes The ‘Marshmallow Experiment’ Designed For Kids

Cephalopods are sea creatures that fall into four different species: octopi, squid, nautilus, and cuttlefish. They are known to be pretty smart, and there is even one cephalopod who has managed to get through a cognitive test that was made for kids.

The experiment involved a cuttlefish, and this animal was able to beat an adaptation of the Stanford marshmallow experiment.

The original test was a study conducted in 1972 by psychologist Walter Mischel. He came up with the marshmallow experiment that rested on the simple principle of self-control. In the experiment, he gave each kid a marshmallow, which they could consume straight away, or wait fifteen minutes. If they waited fifteen minutes to eat the marshmallow, they would then be given two marshmallows.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

This experiment was then tweaked to suit cuttlefish. The latest study was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal, and it detailed out how the cuttlefish were presented a meal but if they resisted eating that meal, a better one would be presented to them later on in the day.

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The experiment, which was conducted at the Marine Biological Laboratory in the University of Cambridge, was lead by Alexandra Schnell. She collaborated with the facility’s senior scientist and leading expert in cephalopod behavior, Roger Hanlon.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The cuttlefish that ended up passing the “marshmallow experiment” was one that had also shown to have great cognitive skills during another task, in which it was trained to associate food rewards with visual cues. The scientists then changed up the experiment slightly by associating a different cue with the food reward.

According to EurekaAlert!, Schnell explained, “The cuttlefish that were quickest at learning both of those associations were better at exerting self-control.”

The scientists found that the cuttlefish was able to wait the delayed time in order to get a better, “higher quality” meal – something that surprised the researchers as they didn’t quite know why. As Schnell explained further, the cuttlefish species will be under camouflage for most of the time while they sit and wait. However, they will go through brief periods of foraging in which they will break their camouflage.

Photo: Piqsels

Schnell added, “They break camouflage when they forage, so they are exposed to every predator in the ocean that wants to eat them. We speculate that delayed gratification may have evolved as a byproduct of this, so the cuttlefish can optimize foraging by waiting to choose better quality food.”

What do you think of the cuttlefish’s success in the “marshmallow experiment”? Let us know!

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