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Are You Smarter Than A Duckling?

New research shows ducklings can recognise the concepts of "same" and "different". Can you?

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  1. Which of the two options below is most similar to this pair?

    BuzzFeed
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The two pyramids are the same, just like the two spheres.

  2. Which of the two options below is most similar to this pair of objects?

    BuzzFeed
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The two purple spheres are the same colour, just like the two blue spheres.

  3. Which of the two options below is most similar to this pair of objects?

    BuzzFeed
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The cone and cylinder are different shapes, just like the cube and cuboid.

  4. Which of the two options below is most similar to this pair of objects?

    BuzzFeed
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The red and blue spheres are different colours, like the yellow and orange spheres.

A scientific paper out today shows that ducklings might be smarter than you thought.

The research, published in the journal Science today, shows that ducklings can recognise the concept of "same" and "different". But the researchers didn't train the ducklings to understand these concepts. Instead, they used a powerful mechanism known as "imprinting". Shortly after they hatch, baby ducks "imprint" on their mother so they can recognise her and follow her around. Ducklings can imprint on any moving object they see in the period during which they're susceptible – it doesn't have to be another duck.
Antone Martinho / Via Science

The research, published in the journal Science today, shows that ducklings can recognise the concept of "same" and "different".

But the researchers didn't train the ducklings to understand these concepts. Instead, they used a powerful mechanism known as "imprinting". Shortly after they hatch, baby ducks "imprint" on their mother so they can recognise her and follow her around. Ducklings can imprint on any moving object they see in the period during which they're susceptible – it doesn't have to be another duck.

In this experiment, the researchers imprinted the ducklings on a pair of objects that were either the same or different.

Antone Martinho / Science
Antone Martinho / Science

The similarities and differences were either in colour or shape – for example, two red spheres (same), or a cube and a cuboid (different).

After they were imprinted, the ducklings were shown two new pairs of objects. Around two-thirds of the ducklings chose to follow the pair that had the same characteristic as the pair they'd imprinted on.

This ability – to recognise the concept of "same or different" – has been taught to other animals before, but only after "extensive reinforcement training", according to the paper's authors.

Which means this skill the ducklings "learned" is pretty damn impressive. Did you do better?

  1. Are you smarter than a duckling?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Yes!
    Correct
    Incorrect
    No :(
    Correct
    Incorrect
    I'm as smart as a duckling, which is ok by me
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Are you smarter than a duckling?
  1.  
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    Yes!
  2.  
    vote votes
    No :(
  3.  
    vote votes
    I'm as smart as a duckling, which is ok by me
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