ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Start Making Better Choices

Updated on August 9, 2014

Why are fish so smart? Because they go around in schools.

Turns out, it’s no joke. Just ask Christian Agrillo, a comparative psychologist at Italy’s University of Padova. In his research, Dr. Agrillo tests something called numerical competence. By placing three black dots in front of a desirable object (like food, or a door that leads to other fish) and two dots in front of an undesirable object (like no food, or a door that leads nowhere), Dr. Agrillo has been able to determine that fish have the ability to differentiate between different numbers.

Along the way, however, the researchers discovered something else. Put fish together and they make better decisions than they make when they’re alone.

Among human beings, this phenomenon is called aggregation, and it is the principle behind survey polls. One person’s opinion might not carry much weight, but the opinions of a thousand people take on considerable significance.

The comparison between people and fish, however, may end there. The explanation for more people producing more accurate results is simple: the outliers are nullified by the statistical mean so that, by design, individual opinions end up counting less. But NPR’s Shankar Vedantam suggests that fish somehow sense which of their number is smarter, and the more astute fish is accepted as the leader.

Mr. Vedantam goes on to suggest that this sort of intellectual meritocracy could be valuable to human beings, particularly if the principle were applied to presidential debates and electoral contests. But neither he nor the fish are holding their breath.

How do you make decisions as part of a group?

See results

What is your cat thinking?

Writing for Slate, David Grimm reports some interesting observations on how animals act and think.

Dr. Agrillo’s team observed that cats show less aptitude than fish for distinguishing three dots from two. However, cats are better at recognizing the size of the dots than the number of them. This may have to do with the feline nature as a hunter, which creates a greater concern for the size of the quarry.

Duke University’s Brian Hare discovered that dogs will almost always follow a human’s pointing finger in choosing between two options. In contrast, chimpanzees are indifferent. This skill is so important to intellectual development that evolutionists might see it as a critical factor in why monkeys never climbed higher up the evolutionary ladder. Cats do as well as dogs, but they don’t like being tested and often refuse to cooperate in the laboratory.

Ádám Miklósi, a Hungarian scientist, has found that if you give your pet an impossible task, like pulling out a bowl of food that is secured to the floor, cats persevere in futile effort. On the other hand, dogs quickly look to their masters for help. Like fish, dogs seem to understand the benefit of relying on others who demonstrate superior wisdom.

Bold as a lion or sly as a fox?

Interestingly, the Talmud offers the very same insight when it says: Initiate a greeting to every person, and be a tail to lions rather than a head to foxes.

How many of us march through life focused only on our destination, disinterested in the people we pass, refusing to even make eye contact with or crack a smile to co-workers we see every day, much less to passing strangers? How much would it cost us to offer a friendly word, a pleasant smile, or even a nod of recognition? Imagine how many lives we could brighten up just a little bit with almost no effort at all.

And imagine how else we might benefit from these smallest of overtures. Every now and again we might make a new acquaintance, or perhaps a new friend. We might open up new social or business opportunities, and expose ourselves to new ideas and new ways of thinking.

And imagine still further, if we were willing to act like fish, not trying to assert control over others -- whether in thought or in action -- but allowing ourselves to consider that the intuitions and insights of others might be informed by greater wisdom than our own.

If we’re surrounded by foxes, at least we can try to lead. But foxes are sneaky, often leading from behind or pursuing their own agendas under the guise of submission. How much better to seek out lions, true leaders worthy of following, and let them show us the direction that will steer us down the road to success and happiness.

After all, if fish are smart enough to recognize wisdom in those around them, what's our excuse?



    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)