DonaldJ

Insect consciousness...

13 posts in this topic

very interesting.

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Take the article with a large dose of skepticism. I am one year form a phd in comparative psychology, and invertebrates are one of my specialties. My lab has a long history of research with honey bees, but after discovering roaches, who needs bees, am I right? The thing is, we simply do not know enough to point to brain structure and suggest consciousness in vertebrates, and especially not invertebrates. Comparative neuropsychology is an important area of study, of course, but we still have to be really skeptical. I haven't had a chance to track down the actual research yet, this research has been reported in a few news articles, but I haven't seen the main source yet. Unfortunately, the media often exaggerates or misreports, and even more unfortunately, some scientists do too

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+1 to what varnon said, I was about to caution skepticism. The only way to know for sure would for an insect to describe to us what it's thinking and feeling, and obviously that's not possible. He's right about the media as well. I might be a little more inclined to take this more seriously if it was a peer reviewed paper...

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I'm sure there is a publication, or at least one on the way. Sometimes news articles get published before the actual paper is released.

But there are definitely some published papers that really over extend their findings. One of them I make fun of a lot in class or at conferences discusses how honey bees can have a "pessimistic cognitive bias" for new events based on previous events. It was cited many times as "bees have emotions." The results are interesting, I don't know what to make of them, I would actually like to try to replicate that study. But I'm hesitant to say I know what the bee is feeling and apply a human emotional model to their behavior. Science can be frustrating sometimes.

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Does decision making indicate consciousness?

The other day I had two adult females (B. Orientalis) almost simultaneously deposit their oothecae. The first one simply dropped it on the bottom of the vivarium (no substrate) near some food. The second one ate into a piece of cornmeal hush puppy, creating a depression. She then carefully dropped the ootheca into the depression. She must not have been satisfied. She carefully removed the ootheca, placing it to the side. Then she ate into the hush puppy a bit more, modifying the depression. After completing this she replaced the ootheca in the depression.

Any thoughts?

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I think very little, even with humans can be used as solid, direct evidence of consciousness. The best approach we have is to gather a lot of weak evidence from different areas that points in the same direction. We have a lot of studies with humans that don't *prove* what is going on in the mind. But they all make similar suggestions, so I think we can come to a reasonable conclusion about the mind. I don't think we have that kind of research for invertebrates yet, even for bees.

But as for you specific example. It is interesting. It looks like a deliberate action, but its hard to say if the roach thought about it, or if it just did it. If something like this is a behavior that can be reliable produced in some species, it would be a *very* good topic of study for insect "intelligence","conscious","tool use" or whatever you want to call it. And I'm not really sure right now the way I would approach it. I think for now I would be inclined to take the parsimonious approach and say we know the roach did the behavior, but we don't know what, if anything, it was thinking. Next I would want to find the conditions in which the behavior would and would not occur. Eventually, to show consciousness, you want to be able to rule out any other simpler explanation so that you have no choice BUT to conclude consciousness. But you have to start with reliable demonstrating it, and isolating when it does and does not happen.

Really cool observation though. Eventually I want to start getting into stuff like this with Hissers. I especially think their tendency to sometimes pickup and run off with food is interesting. Might be something there.

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Really cool observation though. Eventually I want to start getting into stuff like this with Hissers. I especially think their tendency to sometimes pickup and run off with food is interesting. Might be something there.

I read in Joe Kunkel's cockroach FAQ that if it's crowded, roaches will drag a bit a food to an area where they can eat in peace...

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But as for you specific example. It is interesting. It looks like a deliberate action, but its hard to say if the roach thought about it, or if it just did it. If something like this is a behavior that can be reliable produced in some species, it would be a *very* good topic of study for insect "intelligence","conscious","tool use" or whatever you want to call it.

I thought it was interesting that the other female pretty much just dumped her ootheca and this one took a lot of care and effort with hers.

It could simply be that the instinct to ensure a good food supply for her offspring was stronger than other female's. But they are siblings, raised in the same environment.

Much intrigue with these critters...

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I read in Joe Kunkel's cockroach FAQ that if it's crowded, roaches will drag a bit a food to an area where they can eat in peace...

I've seen that with my hissers a lot. If I give them something like frosted flakes, they will pick them up and carry them away. But they end up going back to their log, where all the other hissers want a bite too. So maybe some roaches do it to eat in peace, and others do it to feed their friends, or maybe the friend-feeding is accidental. There is just so much we don't know, but they are really interesting.

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I posted this on another tread, but didn't get any responses.  Maybe I'll get some more thoughts on this thread.

I have two g-oblongonota nymphs.  When I look for them, (by hand as I am blind) I do not find them usually.  Until the other day when one of them, identifiable by it's slightly larger size crawled right onto my hand when I placed my hand in the enclosure.  This same nymph has continued to crawl on my hand when I reach into the cage.  And, my adult hisser does it too sometimes.  Any thoughts on why the roaches seem to be actively approaching my hand?  Could it be my scent, for example?

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One of my hissers managed to find out how to open a terrarium glass slide-door with her "headplate" that she pushed it open with(I know it's hard to believe)! I dont know if this is intelligence or not, for the slide door was not loose.

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