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科学美国人60秒: 萌宠猫咪

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Psychologist Saho Takagi, a graduate student at Kyoto University in Japan, strolls into one of Japan's many cat cafes. These establishments allow customers to pay an hourly fee for the chance to cuddle some cats. They're popular in Japan because so many apartment buildings forbid pet ownership. But Takagi isn't a typical customer. She's not there for feline affection, but to probe their minds.

日本京都大学一名研究生,心理学家,Saho Takagi,漫步走进日本一家以猫咪为主题的咖啡馆,在这些场所,顾客只需支付每小时的费用,就可享受小猫们的陪伴。这些咖啡馆在日本非常流行,因为许多公寓禁止养宠物。但Saho Takagi并不是一个典型的客户,她来这儿并不是为了获得猫咪的情感,而是来调查它们的想法。

The psychology of domestic cats is still something of a mystery, despite our overwhelming familiarity with the critters. They have many skills, she tells me through an interpreter, that are not well known even to their owners.

尽管我们绝大多数都熟悉小动物,但家猫的心理仍是一个未解之谜。她通过一名翻译告诉我,猫咪们有许多技能,它们的主人甚至都不清楚。

Takagi and her colleagues wanted to see whether domestic cats have an intuitive understanding of cause-and-effect, but to make it a fair test, they decided to let the cats use their ears instead of only their eyes. Cats are ambush hunters, and rely on their sense of hearing to locate their prey.

Takagi和她的研究团队想了解家猫是否对因果关系存在直观的理解, 要想进行一场公平的测试,他们决定让猫咪用听觉来测试,而非仅仅靠视力。猫咪可以伏击猎人,并依靠他们的听觉来定位猎物。

The cats—30 of them, mostly from cat cafes, plus a few pets—were shown a series of demonstrations. For example, a researcher would shake a box, accompanied by the sound of an object bouncing around inside. Then the cat would be allowed to see inside the container.

在这30只猫咪中——大多来自以猫为主题的咖啡馆,再加上几只宠物猫——它们做了一系列的展示。例如研究人员会晃动一个盒子,伴随着里面发出一个物体蹦来蹦去的声音,然后让猫查看盒子的内部。

If the cat expects to find a ball inside the box, it would stare longer if the box turned out to be empty, rather than if the ball was there as expected. Psychologists call this a "violation of expectation" response. If they expected a ball and were surprised not to find one—or vice versa—it suggests that cats have certain expectations about the physical realities of the world.

如果猫咪期待在盒子里找到一个球,而结果证明盒子里面是空的,它会长时间盯着盒子。心理学家称之为“期望悖反”反应。如果它们期望会有一个球,但惊奇地发现并没有球——或反之——这表明猫对物理现实世界有一定的预期。

And the cats did stare longer at those containers that violated their expectations, as if to suggest that they realized that something in the situation was amiss. The findings were published in the journal Animal Cognition. [Saho Takagi et al., There's no ball without noise: cats' prediction of an object from noise]

并且猫咪确实会长时间盯着这些盒子,如果结果与它们的期望悖反,这似乎表明它们意识到一些不对头的情况。这项研究结果发表在《动物认知》杂志上。

Takagi suspects that this ability might be related to cats' hunting skills. Despite years of domestication, we initially kept them around as a form of pest control, so it makes sense that cats would have retained their knack for hunting.

Takagi怀疑这种能力可能与猫的捕猎技能有关。尽管经过了多年的驯化,我们最初将它们养在身边是作为“害物防治”的一种形式,因此猫会保留它们的捕猎本领,所以这是有道理的。

Next, Takagi wants to see just how much information domestic cats can extract about objects, like quantity or size, based on what they hear. Eventually, she hopes to do similar experiments with wild cats as well, to see whether her hunting hunch is right.

接下来, Takagi想要弄明白根据它们所听到的,家猫对目标对象可以提取多少信息,如数量或体积。最终,她希望对野生猫科动物做类似的实验,以查看她的狩猎预感是否正确。

—Jason G. Goldman

Jason G. Goldman 报道。

Psychologist Saho Takagi, a graduate student at Kyoto University in Japan, strolls into one of Japan's many cat cafes. These establishments allow customers to pay an hourly fee for the chance to cuddle some cats. They're popular in Japan because so many apartment buildings forbid pet ownership. But Takagi isn't a typical customer. She's not there for feline affection, but to probe their minds.

The psychology of domestic cats is still something of a mystery, despite our overwhelming familiarity with the critters. They have many skills, she tells me through an interpreter, that are not well known even to their owners.

Takagi and her colleagues wanted to see whether domestic cats have an intuitive understanding of cause-and-effect, but to make it a fair test, they decided to let the cats use their ears instead of only their eyes. Cats are ambush hunters, and rely on their sense of hearing to locate their prey.

The cats—30 of them, mostly from cat cafes, plus a few pets—were shown a series of demonstrations. For example, a researcher would shake a box, accompanied by the sound of an object bouncing around inside. Then the cat would be allowed to see inside the container.

If the cat expects to find a ball inside the box, it would stare longer if the box turned out to be empty, rather than if the ball was there as expected. Psychologists call this a "violation of expectation" response. If they expected a ball and were surprised not to find one—or vice versa—it suggests that cats have certain expectations about the physical realities of the world.

And the cats did stare longer at those containers that violated their expectations, as if to suggest that they realized that something in the situation was amiss. The findings were published in the journal Animal Cognition. [Saho Takagi et al., There's no ball without noise: cats' prediction of an object from noise]

Takagi suspects that this ability might be related to cats' hunting skills. Despite years of domestication, we initially kept them around as a form of pest control, so it makes sense that cats would have retained their knack for hunting.

Next, Takagi wants to see just how much information domestic cats can extract about objects, like quantity or size, based on what they hear. Eventually, she hopes to do similar experiments with wild cats as well, to see whether her hunting hunch is right.

—Jason G. Goldman


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