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?