Finding the Next Einstein

Why smart is relative

This 8th Grader Wants to Measure Your Cat's IQ

How do you measure the intelligence of a cat?

Michael Nagle Getty Images
Michael Nagle Getty Images
I study intelligence and have two cats that allow me to live in their house. I have wondered how to go about measuring the intelligence of a cat because one of the cats is able to hack just about anything if there is food to be acquired, whereas the other one doesn’t problem solve very well. If there was such a thing as Confidence IQ, the smarter cat would have a CIQ of at least 180.

Fellow Psychology Today blogger Dr. Stanley Coren has written extensively on the topic of animal intelligence, and I highly recommend his blog Canine Corner if you are interested in the opinion of an expert in the area. His article Are Dogs More Intelligent Than Cats? is definitely worth a read.

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E L Thorndike Cat Puzzle Box
One of the first researchers to investigate the intelligence of cats was E.L. Thorndike, who created “puzzle boxes” (like the one in the picture) to see if cats that were placed inside were able to reason their way out. Although it doesn’t appear that there is a reliable and valid measure of cat intelligence that exists today, it doesn’t mean that researchers aren’t trying to develop one.

One such budding researcher is an 8th grader at Summa North Middle School in Beaverton, Oregon named Alex who is also a member of Mensa. As his science project, he has created a cat IQ test that is modeled on the human IQ test. You can find the entire test at http://www.catiqtest.org/index.htmlHere are the subtests and a brief discussion of them.

Flashlight On/Off: This test measures curiosity, causality, and persistent memory.

Cursor Attentiveness: This test measures how long a cat will pay attention for a cursor when it moves off a screen. It measures for object permanence, curiosity and short term memory.

Short Term Memory: This test measures short term memory in cats. It involves a cat finding a treat or toy hidden in a room.

Long Term Memory: This test measures long term memory in cats. It involves a cat finding a treat hidden in a room. It is almost identical to the Short Term Memory test.

Shell Game: This test measures problem solving in cats. It involves having a cat try to retrieve a treat or toy from under a container.

Blanket Game: This test measures problem solving in cats. It involves having a cat try to retrieve a treat or toy from under a small blanket.

Alex needs your help!  Like all researchers, he is in need of participants in his study. You can find the test instructions here and the test answer form here. All researchers start somewhere, and I hope that you will join me in helping Alex with his project by considering enrolling your cat and sharing this test with others.

Who knows? Maybe you have the next cat Einstein.

© 2012 by Jonathan Wai

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or G+. For more of Finding the Next Einstein: Why Smart is Relative go here.

Jonathan Wai, Ph.D., is a psychologist, writer, and research scientist at Duke University.

 
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