Weird Science’s pessimistic dogs won’t play fetch

24 Oct

Your dog isn't misbehaving, it's just a pessimist: We make jokes about other people's separation anxiety, but people are hardly the only who experience it—our pets often do as well. Some dogs and cats (and possibly other species) will often respond to an owner's absence with various misbehaviors, from treating a bed as a litterbox to chewing up the furniture. Why do only some pets respond this way to their owner's absence? Because the ones that do are inherently pessimistic. Stick them in a situation where they had to run to a bowl that may or may not contain food, and the ones that showed separation anxiety tended to run to the bowl more slowly, as if they expected to be disappointed by its contents.

Senility strikes the bees (no word on the birds yet): No, it's not the cause of colony collapse, but the memory deficits that we humans develop with aging are apparently widespread in the animal kingdom. Bees that were given a chance to adjust to a change in hive location did worse if they were older. The problem isn't that they consistently fail to form new memories; instead, memory performance gets more variable, and the bees can't seem to get rid of memories of their old hive location.

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