Cesar Millan, Nat Geo’s “Dog Whisperer”, contends that dogs don’t think. They react. I regard my Australian Cattle Dog, Fafnir, as a prime example. She is sweet as honey, this dog, and the most cooperative creature who has ever lived with me, but she has the brains of a pillow.
However, she is wise. Sometimes beyond measure. Here is a simple example:
I sleep on my back. Our cat, Divan, sleeps (especially in winter) on my crotch, that being the warmest place in the house. Unlike most cats who sleep on the brink of total wakefulness, Divan sleeps like a rock, and has to be crowbarred awake. Often this doesn’t matter, but first thing in the morning it can be a nuisance.
One such morning last fall, I really, really had to go. The cat was especially intractable. Fafnir leapt up beside me, drove her snout under the cat’s ass and flung her halfway across the room. I was deeply impressed. The dog had never shown any aptitude for leverage before, and was an indifferent student of ballistics, but she sure knew how to put it all to work when it was needed,
Now this bulletin has been brought to my attention. The blurb below refers to the Russian Parliament, not dogs. But legislative bodies have far too many similarities with dog packs to go into here.
“Recently, MPs have often surprised us [with] solutions [to problems, in which it is] difficult to find logic. But is intelligence necessary to make decisions? Studies show that complex decisions are often made without any participation of consciousness [whatever].”
We don’t get enough insight into how other societies malfunction. This deficit leaves us self-conscious, too focused on our own perversities and corruptions to fully appreciate the miracle of life spread before us. I thought, “Here’s a chance to rebalance ourselves, and perhaps gain a bit of perspective on the whole opera.”
Could this one article reveal mysteries, unlock the Significant Difference that has divided East from West since homo Sapiens first walked out of Africa? Well? Could it?
Alas, the article deals with science. It’s about two studies, one Russian, one American, of how decisions are made. But even here, perhaps, we can get some insights into national character.
The problems were grouped as Easy (which washcloth for the pictured bathroom decor?), Moderate (which hotel to book for a 3-day visit?), and Complex (which car to buy?). The participants were divided into three groups, too. One group studied each problem, whatever its difficulty, for five minutes before presenting solutions. Another group had to announce their decisions immediately. The last group had to spend five minutes working on puzzles and letting their unconscious minds make the decisions. Overall, the straight thinkers did best on the easy stuff, but the puzzle-players, using their unconscious minds, cleaned up on the tough questions and had the overall best score.
The Russians published their work.
Reading the article, some American researchers had issues with the “five minutes” business. What if the decision only took six seconds to work out? Would the problem get “overthought” – the right choice being replaced by one that began to look better? Or what if it took thirteen minutes to work out correctly? The Americans repeated the experiments, allowing the participants the time they needed until they were satisfied they’d made the right choice.
I can’t imagine American researchers operating on the premise that a standard period of time for considering a problem was ‘normal’. Similarly, I was startled by the brilliance of giving the participants puzzles to distract them while their unconscious minds worked it out.
Also, I wonder, if the Russian test was conducted in, say, North Carolina, and the American test in St Petersburg, how would the results differ?
I understand the World Health Organization has given a grant to the Royal Zoo. Gorillas with typewriters are developing culturally and species unbiased IQ tests. I wish them all the luck, but I still won’t administer one to Fafnir. I don’t want her to develop an ego. Personally, I’ll continue to decide most problems as I’ve always done: flip a coin, then do what I want.
The article is, unfortunately. in Russian, which I unfortunately don’t speak. Fortunately, though, it is online and Google Translate will give you a fighting chance at deciphering it, should you choose to.