Science: Not So Smart

Even simple-minded animals, such as fish, seem to size up situations. Male fish of nest-building species chase other males off their premises. They welcome nubile females. To the human observer it looks as if they judge approaching fish, determine their sex and promise, and act accordingly. But this, explains Professor N. Tinbergen in a recent Bulletin of the Wilson Ornithological Club, is giving them too much credit. Often all they see is a single characteristic of the approaching fish, which "releases" in them a train of automatic responses.

Such simplicity allows zoologists to...

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