Are you smarter than a cuttlefish?

We were watching a NOVA special on cuttlefish the other night. They are such amazing creatures. They have a changeable skin that allows them to instantly alter their appearance to match the environment they are in. They use this for hunting and hiding. They also use this ability to hypnotize their pray by making their skin flash like a Vegas advertisement.

They have very large brains, and are possibly the most intelligent invertebrate species. One of the scientists in the program was testing their intelligence by placing a cuttlefish in a round room with two doors. One door was yellow and the other yellow and black striped. If there was a plant in the room, the yellow door would be open, and the striped door would be blocked with clear plastic. If there was a brick in the room, the striped door would be open and the yellow door would be blocked.

The cuttlefish was able to grasp the rules after a few tries, learning quickly to look for the plant or the brick, and then to exit through the corresponding door. She explained that this ability to follow two part instructions was an indicator of a higher level of intelligence.

Which is why I sat in my warm bedroom yesterday morning, hairbrush and sparkly scrunci in hand, wondering if my six year old was as smart as a cuttlefish.

As we were getting ready to go to the mall, I handed her a pair of baby booties and asked her to take them to her father and return to me so I could brush her hair.

Two steps; hand off booties, return for hair-brushing. Simple right?
If plant, choose yellow door.

She received my instructions twice and ran off to do my bidding. I sat and waited for her to return. And waited. And…. waited. I gave her enough time to find her father, hand him the booties, make faces at the baby, rewrite the Magna Carta, and return to me before I gave up and called down to her.

“Monkey, I asked you to come back upstairs.”
“Oh, yeah Mom, I forgot! I’m coming” was her reply.

If brick, choose striped door.

“Why didn’t you come back upstairs after handing your dad the booties honey?” I asked as I brushed tangles from her locks.
“Sorry mom, I forgot.”
“What were you doing down there all that time?”
“I was playing teacher.”
“Well, please try and listen more closely next time.”

When I got downstairs, I discovered that not only had I told her twice to come have her hair brushed, but her dad told her to go have her hair brushed after she handed him the booties. Her response to him?

“No Daddy, Mommy said to bring you the booties, that’s all.”

Hmmmm… if Monkey were a cuttlefish, If Booties to Dad, Then Upstairs to Mom would have been within the realm of her ability. However, because she is a human child and a member of the most intelligent species on earth, this simple two part instruction, repeated for her again and again, proves too much for her to follow.

I choose to believe her inability to compete with cuttlefish in this arena is due to the overload of amazing stuff going on in her brain and she is simply too busy to apply herself to such menial instructions.

That’s it right? Cuttlefish aren’t actually smarter than my six year old, are they?

4 thoughts on “Are you smarter than a cuttlefish?”

  1. I think her behavior was quite above that of the cuttlefish. You gave her instructions, like placing the plant or the brick in the tank. She went to the door she wanted, when she got there she just told the door.. ‘Nahh baby, that’s not a brick, that’s a plant.’ And the door opened.

  2. I think the cuttlefish is smarter than our girls. These girls, they’re smart. But perhaps they’re too smart!


  3. Cuttlefish are definitely smarter than the boys…

    Did they do an experiment about finding toys or clothes on the floor right by their feet… er fins?
    You know right there…
    look down…
    no on the other side…
    over there…
    you’re getting warmer…
    you see your feet?….
    it’s right next to them…
    see it?…
    next to your other foot…
    no the other one….
    it’s right there…
    no, you can find it…
    it’s right there by your feet…
    yes down…
    no it’s not up there…
    where are your feet?…

  4. I just wish I had the ability to change to my environment like a cuttlefish – It would come in helpful at work with my mentally ill patients (Oh wait – I do pretty well fitting in with them).

    It would also be helpful around my teenager since well – lets face it – all parents look like dorks to their teenagers friends.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s