Invertebrate comparative psychology

Insects have traditionally been assumed to have very simple cognitive abilities. However, there is growing evidence that tiny-brained insects can perform surprising cognitive feats. For example, recent findings from our lab show that ants can:

 

Spotlight: Cognitive control and cognitive interference

A classic psychological tool for examining cognitive control is the Stroop colour word test. In these tests, participants either have to read a colour word or report the colour it is written in. Reading is more habitual, so reading the word RED is easier than reporting the colour blue. Delays and errors decrease, however, if you have just had to do the same task (e.g. report the colour) previously.

In collaboration with the cognitive psychologist Prof. Gesine Dreisbach we developed an analog of the Stroop colour word test for ants. This will enabled us to examine cognitive control and interference in invertebrates. Nicely, we found that ants respond exactly as humans do to conflict interference: it slows them down, and causes more errors. Read the paper here (or get the PDF from our paper repository).