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Octopuses Have No Personalities and Enjoy HDTV 482

Posted by kdawson
from the or-was-that-redundant dept.
Whiteox writes about an Australian researcher named Renata Pronk, who has discovered that octopuses prefer HDTV. She recruited 32 gloomy octopuses from the waters of Chowder Bay. Previously, researchers have reported little success when showing video to octopuses. Miss Pronk's insight was that the octopus eye is so refined that it might see standard PAL video, at 25 fps, as a series of stills. She tried HDTV (50 fps) and her subjects reacted to the videos of a crab, another octopus, or a swinging bottle on the end of a string. A further discovery is that octopuses show no trait of individual personalities, even though they exhibit a high level of intelligence. It would certainly be possible to quibble about the definition of "personality" employed, and whether Miss Pronk had successfully measured it.
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Octopuses Have No Personalities and Enjoy HDTV

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  • by Loibisch (964797) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @07:10PM (#26194861)

    ...your standard geek.

    What, too close to home? :)

    • by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @07:28PM (#26194995) Journal

      ...your standard geek.

      Hey, I know tons of geeks with tons of personalities... just check their character sheets!

    • Re:Sounds like... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by BWJones (18351) * on Sunday December 21, 2008 @07:31PM (#26195039) Homepage Journal

      Actually, I'd have to disagree with the assessment of no personality in octopuses. I had a common octopus (octopus vulgaris) as a pet (her name was Cephus, short for cephalopod) for almost two years and she most absolutely displayed a personality completely different from another octopus that I had as a pet for about a year.

      • by cheebie (459397) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @08:16PM (#26195385)

        Ah, but were you showing them TV a lot? That tends to destroy even invertebrates'
        personalities.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by JonTurner (178845)

        Yeah, she heard that you killed the first one off after less than a year and thought "I'd better perform or he'll do me in, too!"

        Maybe she was just a bad actor?

        • Re:Sounds like... (Score:5, Informative)

          by BWJones (18351) * on Monday December 22, 2008 @12:10AM (#26196815) Homepage Journal

          ......... Actually octopus have relatively short lifespans. The first one was several months old when I got her from a lab that was doing behavioral research and the fact that he lived almost a year after that was pretty good. The second octopus was a bit of a stowaway when I found her on my SCUBA tank at a gas stop about 100 miles away from the ocean. She was tiny then and lived for almost two years which is pretty long lived for an octopus.

      • Re:Sounds like... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MonsterMasher (518641) <Steven.Work@uvm.edu> on Sunday December 21, 2008 @09:06PM (#26195691)

        - Absolutely!

        My wife keeps salt water tanks and we had an Octopus named Oglebbie. Oglebbie was such a sweetie. (I'm calling her a female, but that is an assumption.)

        We had what can only be called the classic love affair - doomed from the start..

        It started with small touching with fingers/arms. It was routine - every day a few times I would put my octopus-looking hand in and she would embrace. And Pull - she wanted me to stay.

        They have a very sharp beak BTW. Only try this if you are willing to get bit. She never bit me.

        It was definitely love. As soon as I turned on the light she would shoot across the tank to the top door area, and I would open it .. verbally complaining at the time about never get rest.. and Oglebbie would inflate herself with water and climb out to travel across the top of tank to play.

        After a sort time (few minutes) she would go back to the door and if I went over there she would shoot the water at my general direction, then dive in.

        Tragic love.. She would dream of us romping across reefs, and having fun. I would want to go running through fields of flowers with her ...

        One day she lost all her zing. My wife was away and I didn't keep the water level up.. the salt concentration went too high. She didn't die but she lingered, and didn't want to play - which was more torturous for me because she was there.. but not there. And it was my fault.

        Thank you for sharing - I'm still getting over it.. (I really did feel terrible - and the way she seemed to haunt the tank - a fraction of her was left. It's like how your non-nerdy spouse see you when you are coding - but permanent.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Sounds like that'd have to be one charming motherfucking squid.
        • Re:Sounds like... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by BWJones (18351) * on Monday December 22, 2008 @12:25AM (#26196889) Homepage Journal

          Thanks for the story.

          Cephus died of old age thankfully and I will say that she exhibited many of the same qualities, including a sense of humor or ability to get people to pay attention to her as she would shoot water out of the tank if she wanted attention. She also snuck out of the tank on more than one occasion to steal fish out of the feeder tank across the table from her own aquarium (which necessitated a large, heavy pot to be placed on top of the tank to prevent that sort of behavior.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          What do you mean she lingered? Just dying slowly? Did the salt concentration cause some physical problem with her or was she "angry" at you?

      • Re:Sounds like... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Richard.Tao (1150683) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @09:20PM (#26195777)
        Despite the fact you very well maybe right, a pet owner is more likely to humanize their pet then anyone else. People are notorious for anthropomorphizing things, like cars... so a definitive study on personality would be important. Also, does life span have any effect on personality? Do mice have personalities as much as cats? It seems logical that shorter lived creatures wouldn't have as much time to develop them, having less environmental stimuli, less memories, so they'd need to inherit reasoning skills. But I also have the feeling I may be quite wrong.
        • Re:Sounds like... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by BWJones (18351) * on Monday December 22, 2008 @12:13AM (#26196835) Homepage Journal

          I'd refer you to the very rich literature on octopus behavior. Octopus have been estimated to be about as smart as dogs with surprisingly adept skills at problems solving and recognition.

          If you'd say that dogs have no personality, I'd say you've never spent *any* time around animals.

          • Re:Sounds like... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by lgw (121541) on Monday December 22, 2008 @12:40AM (#26196963) Journal

            There seem to be a *large* number of people who have convinced themselves that animals with the intelligecne of dogs or cats are non-sentient, and any personality or self awareness that they seem to exhibit is just the owners self-deception. I've seen smart and dumb cats, and smart and dumb dogs. There are certainly cats and dogs which seem to have no personality or mental model of the world, and act like simple stimulus-response system. There are also cats and dogs with clear personalities that interact with the world in a thoughtful manner.

            I have to agree that those who say that self-awareness (or at least world-awareness, but it's hard to imagine a good mental model of the world that doesn't include oneself) is limited to humans simply haven't spent the time to know better.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I've had pet rabbits who had very distinct opinions about stuff upon first exposure. One, confronted with the TV, immediately would sit and watch it... as long as it was a science fiction show. Otherwise he'd soon get bored and ignore it. (I never did quite figure out how he differentiated them or what the appeal was to him.) Another couldn't care less and would watch anything on TV, while laying in his little hammock.

          Scifi bunny couldn't care less about music, if I put any on he would look at the speakers

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by HexRei (515117)

        While we are all entitled to state our opinions, I'd tend to value a scientific study involving 32 subjects over your two-subject anecdotal observation of pets.

        That doesn't mean your wrong, but her evidence seems stronger.

      • Re:Sounds like... (Score:5, Informative)

        by loveisoxytocin (1436771) on Monday December 22, 2008 @05:56AM (#26198293)
        There's also a reasonably well developed research literature on personality in octopuses and squid (as well as many other species). All converge to show that they DO have personalities. I'm surprised that the author would claim to have shown they don't have personalities. I can see how you might fail to find evidence that they do have personalities but that is quite different from showing that they don't. A few of the octopus/squid refs are below for those who want to read more on the topic: Sinn, D., Perrin, N., Mather, J. A., & Anderson, R. C. (2001). Early temperamental traits in an octopus (Octopus bimaculoides). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 115, 351-364. Mather, J. A., & Anderson, R. C. (1993). Personalities of Octopuses (Octopus rubescens). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 107, 336-340. Sinn, D. L., Gosling, S. D., & Moltschaniwskyj, N. A. (2008). Development of shy/bold behaviour in squid: Context-specific phenotypes associated with developmental plasticity. Animal Behaviour, 75, 433-442.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21, 2008 @07:13PM (#26194883)

    Only Australians would be cruel enough to give Vegemite to poor defenseless octopi.

    • by magarity (164372) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @09:11PM (#26195713)

      "Octopuses," Miss Pronk said, "are very smart. I have seen my octopuses open Vegemite jars by unscrewing the lid.
       
      No, no. If they were very smart, they wouldn't open a jar of Vegemite in the first place.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ignavus (213578)

        No. The point is, vegemite jars gradually glue up real tight, and only octopuses can open them. That makes them smarter than us, because we make jars that we cannot open when the product is half used.

        Nothing here says that the octopuses were eating the vegemite. Being smart creatures, they might have been feeding the vegemite to the scientists, or using it to grease their sport cars (vegemite looks surprisingly like automotive lubricant).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21, 2008 @07:13PM (#26194885)

    When I read that headline, I thought it applied to many of the people I know as well...

  • by Bromskloss (750445) < ... <at> <gmail.com>> on Sunday December 21, 2008 @07:15PM (#26194901)
    just remember that.
  • by EsJay (879629) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @07:16PM (#26194911)
    That is all.
  • by jdb2 (800046) * on Sunday December 21, 2008 @07:17PM (#26194923) Journal
    HGTV -- Home and Garden Television : The bane of many a married man's existence. Maybe they should design octopus habitats that adhere to the principles of Feng Shui : "Oh my god! That's perfect! It just balances out the energy of the algae encrusted rock in the center!"

    jdb2
  • Octopi are Awesome! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hedgemage (934558) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @07:18PM (#26194929)
    I think that by understanding a creature as alien to us as an octopus, we're learning more about what is 'intelligence'. While they're not going to be developing a civilization any time soon, its cool to have an invertebrate that on many levels is closer to primate intelligence than many mammals.
    • by jdb2 (800046) * on Sunday December 21, 2008 @07:26PM (#26194981) Journal
      What's hindering them from developing a civilization soon ( In geological time of course ;) is the fact that their lifespans are so short. For example, I believe that the Giant Pacific Octopus only lives for about 4-5 years. It's saddening that such beauty and intelligence only graces this Earth for such a short time. :(

      jdb2
      • by h4rm0ny (722443) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @07:51PM (#26195211) Journal

        We should selectively breed some octopi for greater life span. They are beautiful and fascinating creatures and it would be wonderful if we had some longer lived ones to watch and spend time with.
      • by DrYak (748999) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @08:05PM (#26195303) Homepage

        What's hindering them from developing a civilization soon ( In geological time of course ;) is the fact that their lifespans are so short.

        Humanity has been able to carry on numerous projects on a bigger scale than the average human's lifespan.

        My personal idea about the prerequisite for a civilisation are :
        - A decent way to interact with the environment (at least octopi have plenty of tentacles - dolphins on the other hand, however big their brain is, don't have the physically mean to put their brain at work on much things)
        - A good a quite developed communication system (we humans have speech - octopi seem to have colour-changing communication)
        - A life cycle including nurturing the small. If the parents of a specie have to take care of their kids during their first months/years, that gives also a chance to teach them (thanks to good communication) what they have learned to do with their arms. As opposed to animals whose children are 100% autonomous after birth and can immediately wander on their own.
        That's where this whole business of "programmed death after reproduction" sucks. Not because 4-5 years is short, but because they are genetically programmed to self-destruct (or starve to death if the self-destruction glands are removed) not long after laying eggs (about the time the eggs hatch according to wikipedia).
        There's no nurturing of the kids. Whatever cool and neat trick the parent octopi may have learnt dies with them. They don't get a chance to transmit it to their children.

        Because of this no culture can be carried on, and with this : no civilisation.

        But don't despair there's a kind of mutation called neoteny [wikipedia.org] where some individual are able to reproduce without having acquired all characteristics of adult and still retaining some juvenile trait. Some future octopi may mutate and be able to reproduce, yet not die once the eggs hatches.

  • by itsybitsy (149808) * on Sunday December 21, 2008 @07:24PM (#26194961)

    Oceanianica News (Deep under Chowder Bay): In an important press release today the octopuses involved in the Cowderbay Excursion report on their scientific excursion into the ape territory to assess the intelligence and personality of the horrific to look at four creatures with four limbs that only move on two of them that call themselves humans. The 32 members of the scientific team were specially trained in observational techniques that emphasized uniform behaviors so as to minimize the impact of their presence on the lower life forms being studied.

    A four limbed creature who self identifies as "Miss Pronk" was extensively interviewed and examined. She attempted to use primitive externalized colored skin image projectors to get the 32 excursion members to react. Her primitive attempts at communication failed with what she called "PAL". Then the subject attempted to communicate using something she called "HDTV" by showing images of food. At the sight of a captive octopus the excursion members elected for a quick withdrawal back to the forward base camp in Chowder Bay (human's name for it). The members of the excursion ensured at all times to not reveal any individuality by using the uniform motion training instilled in all octopus from birth.

    An assessment from the team after their safe return to Aquatica City was that the human subject lacked any personality during any of the tests. She failed to move on her two upper limbs and also failed to use her lower limbs except for moving about. In addition she had enclosed herself inside an flexible and rigid outer shell and refused all attempts to leave her shell so that we could examine her personality up close.

    Naturally the humans require additional study. Under no circumstances should attempts be made to communicate with them until the safe return of the captive octopus hostages can be executed.

    In addition it was discovered that while some humans have an additional appendage that is usually kept in the shell the human self identified as Miss Pronk failed to accept any of the advances by the others to have her interact with this appendage. For this reason we conclude that Miss Pronk has no personality.

  • by WD (96061) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @07:28PM (#26194997)

    Ok, a couple of problems here:
    - Standard video is not 24 frames per second, as the original article states. That's the speed for film, not video.
    - 1080i HDTV is displayed at the same frame rate as standard definition TV. In PAL land, that's 50 fields per second, which makes 25 frames per second.
    - Even at 720p's 50 full frames per second in PAL countries, that does not give the perception of smoother motion. SDTV will give you 50 half-resolution fields per second, and 720P will give you 50 full-resolution frames per second. The motion smoothness will be essentially the same. The real difference is the resolution delivered with each picture.

    • by DigitAl56K (805623) * on Sunday December 21, 2008 @08:09PM (#26195331)

      1080i HDTV is displayed at the same frame rate as standard definition TV. In PAL land, that's 50 fields per second, which makes 25 frames per second.

      Only if it's 1080i25/1080i30 and not 1080i50/1080i60

      Even at 720p's 50 full frames per second in PAL countries, that does not give the perception of smoother motion.

      Yes it does. There are no interlacing artifacts for the horizontal component of the motion.

      The motion smoothness will be essentially the same

      No, because the claim is that the octopus can see the individual pictures (i.e. fields) at 25/30 fps. Where there is significant horizontal motion in an a picture where each field is only updated every 1/25th of a second, the octopus may be able to see each field being updated. At 50 progressive fields per second the entire image is updated at twice the rate. This of course depends on the display type.

      We have to remember that one reason CRT's look "smooth" to us is persistence of vision. We don't notice the light intensity fade over 1/25th of a second as the electron beam scans out the rest of the picture. However, the octopus's persistence of vision may be different. Imagine for a moment that the octopus see's the old "standard definition" display the same was as we see an old CRT when viewed through a camcorder: With big bands running across it due to the scanning done by the electron beam. Maybe with HDTV, where CRT technology is less likely to be used, this is no longer the case and thus the octopus sees the picture as real.

      Anyway, to me this is perfectly plausible. We shouldn't be dismissive so quickly towards a behavior that has actually been observed for several subjects, even if we can't instantly explain it.

  • So, in other words, they're just like most slashdotters?

    • by lxs (131946) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @08:47PM (#26195585)
      Actually most of us are Slashdotters. We tolerate you humans on our site, but only barely. Statistically we are four times as likely to get first post than you twoarmers, but breaking in on underseas cables is a pain in the suckers.
      --
      May your tentacles catch many turtles.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Alsee (515537)

        Ahh, that explains all the Slashdot Suggestion submissions wanting to replace the -1 Troll moderation option with -1 Squid.

        -

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by rubycodez (864176)

      they like tentacle sex too, so specifically are like hentai anime otako slashdotters.

      • by zooblethorpe (686757) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @11:56PM (#26196733)

        Oh, that's just too punny -- only I'm not sure if you meant it, or just made a typo.

        For those not familiar with Japanese, otaku is the word for "nerd" -- generally not in any positive sense. The word stems from the roots o-, being a generic honorific prefix to refer to things not your own (simply speaking), and taku or "residence", the underlying implication being someone who never leaves the house.

        Meanwhile, tako is Japanese for "octopus".

        I once heard of an idea for opening a chain of Mexican-themed seafood fast-food restaurants around Japan, called "Tako Taco"...

        Cheers,

  • Test and control (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zebra_X (13249) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @07:29PM (#26195007)

    "that it might see standard PAL video, at 25 fps, as a series of stills. She tried HDTV (50 fps)"

    So she changed the resolution, and the framerate... and so she now does not know if it is the pixel desity or the framerate that made the difference. In addition, it would be good to note the display type as analog and digital displays work differently...

  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday December 21, 2008 @07:33PM (#26195059) Homepage Journal

    I disagree [dailymotion.com].

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @07:43PM (#26195157)

    This almost seems like an Ig Nobel coming in early. But being that this is the holiday season, I'll bite, at the expense of our Australian folks.

    She recruited 32 gloomy octopuses from the waters of Chowder Bay.

    Um, not for me to peck around at Australian dialect, but I think the proper word would be incarcerated.

    Previously, researchers have reported little success when showing video to octopuses.

    WTF?!?! Austrailian scientists: "Hey, what should we do this afternoon?" "Ah, let's show some video to the octopi." Try "Buckaroo Banzai," I think that they will like that one. It's kinda funny, if you understand octopi humor. "Miami Vice" is right out.

    She tried HDTV (50 fps) and her subjects reacted to the videos of a crab, another octopus, or a swinging bottle on the end of a string.

    After this treatment, I'd grab for the bottle in an instant.

    A further discovery is that octopuses show no trait of individual personalities, even though they exhibit a high level of intelligence.

    Just the other day I tossed a chick out of the bed, and said, "You *really* have a great personality, but you are so cold and slimy."

  • Me too! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Steve1952 (651150) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @07:47PM (#26195187)
    I also have no personality and prefer HDTV!
  • Pronk! (Score:5, Funny)

    by tzjanii (1170411) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @07:49PM (#26195203)
    I want to thank all of the noble Slashdot readers who tagged this story "Pronk," yet again proving their intelligence and foresight in picking a tag which I am sure will occur again and often in the future. Their brave efforts at usefully categorizing articles never ceases to astound.
  • Best Headline Ever (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jeffkjo1 (663413) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @07:52PM (#26195223) Homepage
    Octopuses Have No Personalities and Enjoy HDTV

    This has to be the single greatest slashdot headline I've ever read.... research performed on two seemingly unrelated things combined into one project. Cue bad jokes about what television shows those with 'no personalities' must enjoy.
  • by NoKaOi (1415755) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @08:04PM (#26195297)
    "A further discovery is that octopuses show no trait of individual personalities, even though they exhibit a high level of intelligence."

    In other words, they are like 90%+ of the human population. Except for the high level of intelligence part, of course.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21, 2008 @10:35PM (#26196299)

    Sounds a bit like a guy I dated a few years back. He was all over me like an octopus, had no personality and lit up when he saw the latest technology.

    But slashdot readers wouldn't be like that, would they !

  • by hack slash (1064002) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @10:43PM (#26196351)
    Waitaminute, exactly what type of screens were used in the experiment? CRT? LCD? plasma? DLP? OLED?

    Getting answers to that question would go some way to determining wether it's the differing refresh rate of the image on the screens the octopi are seeing, or the actual framerate of the footage.

    Everyone seems to be hung up with the framerate of the footage but forget that CRT & single chip DLP displays can have a noticable flicker whereas LCD (TFT), plasma (to some extent) & OLED are practically flicker free when a static image is being dispayed.

"If that makes any sense to you, you have a big problem." -- C. Durance, Computer Science 234

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