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'Soccer Clairvoyant' Octopus Paul - Sensation of FIFA World Cup 2010

Updated on July 10, 2010

Sensation Created by Paul - The 'Psychic' Octopus

The eight-armed oracle, Paul has become the FIFA World Cup 2010 sensation by predicting the outcomes of all six Germany games correctly.

Psychic Powers of Paul:

Two and a half year old 'Paul - the octopus' was born in a sea aquarium in Weymouth, United Kingdom and has been the resident of "Sea Life Aquarium" in Oberhausen, western Germany.

He has achieved great popularity in the Deutscheland since his predictions in 2008 Europeon Championship in which 70% of his forecasts were correct. In the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa, he has once again proved his prognosticating abilities by his flawless predictions for all the six matches involving his home country, Germany.

He had predicted correctly the four wins of Germany over Australia, Argentina, England and Ghana and two losses for his country of residence to Serbia and Spain. This has proved that he is usning some psychic powers and not simply attracted to the flag of Germany.

The mollusk was being adored and respected by all Germans and was accorded the status of national celebrity unless the fateful prediction he made for the semifinals, selecting Spain over Germany.

Surprisingly, with the present top form of German football team, their loss to Spain was unexpected by many soccer lovers and many people thought that it was a mistaken prediction by Paul. But the win of Spain over Germany once again proved Paul - the psychogenic octopus' football clairvoyance.

After his 100% successful forecasts, his keepers at Oberhausen made him to predict the outcome of the World Cup 2010 final, his first prediction of a match without Germany and he picked up Spain as the World Champion.

Paul's latest predictions:

  • Germany would defeat Uruguay for the third place in the FIFA World Cup 2010
  • Spain will be the World Cup Champion 2010, defeating Netherlands on 11th July at Johannesburg, South Africa

Paul the "psychic" octopus
Paul the "psychic" octopus

See the video how Paul picks Spain over Netherlands for the World Cup Final 2010

Methodology of Paul's Forecasts

How Paul makes his predictions?

Two identical glass boxes are lowered into the tank of Paul - the Octopus at the 'Sea Life Aquarium', Oberhausen, Germany. Each box contains a tasty morsel of food and the flags of the two opposing teams and Paul is allowed to choose between the boxes. So far, every time Paul goes straight to one of the boxes, opens the lid, squeezes himself into the box and gets at his food, thus making the prediction of which team will be the winner in the upcoming match.

His job of soothsaying started in 2008 Europeon Championship, in which four out of six of his predictions were correct. Amazingly, his psychic powers have sharpened with experience and in the FIFA World Cup 2010, all his six predictions so far are accurate, making him a global star.

But how's that possible? He's just an octopus, a lower invertebrate. Is it mere chance and he's just being lucky everytime?

While everyone is merrily Googling "Psychic Octopus" and exchanging octopus recipes (the losing teams are fuming after his predictions have come true and wants him on the dinner plate), I thought of researching detailed facts about the octopuses and try to figure out the mystery behind such phenomenal psychogenic behaviour of the present world famous cephalopod, Paul.

Pictures taken by photographer for Reuters
Pictures taken by photographer for Reuters

Octopus Intelligence

There are various scientific reports that suggest that octopus is the most intelligent among the invertebrates (Linden 2002). They can learn, process complex information and display complex behaviour.

In the 1950s, it was discovered that the octopuses have massive brains, the size being the biggest among the invertebrates. Octopus belongs to the phylum Cephalopods, the same lineage that produces clams, snails and other mollusks. In general mollusks have 20,000 neurons (brain cells), whereas octopus has half a million neurons differentiated into complex lobes, very much like human brains. They also have a differentiated nervous system, 50% of the nerves being in the eight arms.

Some scientific reports and findings of investigations support that octopus have high level of intelligence (very much like the higher mammals):

  • They are able to recognize shapes and patterns, that means they can be made to learn (Boal, 1991)
  • They can learn to recognize geographical landmarks in their tanks (Mather, 1991) and studies have shown that they can solve mazes in order to escape predators (Wells, 1978 and Boal, 1996)
  • When some toys were introduced in the tanks of the octopus by a Canadian biologist, Jennifer Mather, they were found to inspect the toys and puff jets of water to push the toys around the tank, that is they were found playing with the toys. Other invertebrates never play with toys (Mather and Anderson, 1999)
  • They can use tools, for example they use coconut shells lying on the sea floor as tools for their shelter (Mather, 1994)
  • They are proven to have excellent memory
  • They are proven to have sharp eyesight
  • Some studies say that they have primary consciousness, that is they can combine perceptions with their memory and show distinctive personalities

Unique features and behaviour of octopus

Specialized features which facilitate octopus' deep under-water life:

  • Octopuses have high-speed jet propulsion system and their boneless arms can control water pressure for their desired movements
  • They have large complex eyes. Though they are colour-blind, their brains can perceive polarized light which human brains cannot.
  • They have highly developed sensory receptors to sense touch, taste and smell.
  • They can detect gravity, a sense which is used in the coordination of muscles during movement
  • Presence of millions of chromatophores (multicelled organs which contain pigment sac with different colours) and muscle fibres which stretch the sac when contracted, enable them to change body colour and texture spontaneously while escaping attacks

Unpredictable and mysterious behaviour of the octopus:

  • Octopus can escape the predators by hiding quickly and also by deceit. They morph their boneless muscular body into the shape of a rock and matches their body motion with the speed of light in the surrounding water. Hence though they remain in plain view, predators don't attack the apparently motionless rock.
  • Octopus is a very fast learner and with a few trials can figure out the way to escape even in a new terrain
  • Octopus adopts various clever and unpredictable behaviour to escape attacks, it can puff up its body and turn white to scare its predator, it can squirt ink to distract the attacker, zigzag through the water or suddenly switch its skin to match a nearby coral.

The octopus "Billye" opens the child-proof pill bottle to get its food
The octopus "Billye" opens the child-proof pill bottle to get its food

Other Amazing Instances of Octopus Smartness

Owing to their intelligence, they are provided opportunities for enrichment in captivity.

  • At Seattle aquarium, at a public display, the Giant Pacific octopus "Pandora" was given a jar with a screw-top lid filled with feed. She could open the jar and get at the food in fifteen minutes for the first time and did not take more than two minutes in the successive attempts.
  • In another attempt to challenge another Giant Pacific octopus, "Billye", it was given a child-proof pill bottle in which the lid had to be opened by pressing and turning at the same time. The bottle was filled with raw herring pieces and several holes were made on the surface of the bottle as octopuses sense food through smell. It took 55 minutes for the octopus to open the bottle for the first time and successive presentations with the same kind of bottle took an average of five minutes.

See the video how Paul had chosen Spain against Germany

Octopuses can think in a different way!

As some biologists working actively to unveil the mystery of psychological functioning of octopuses say that octopuses no doubt have a "high intellectual ability of thinking differently". However humans have not yet come up with the right set of experiments to illuminate the intelligence that these animals possess.

Ongoing research and fresh investigations are being made to get a better understanding of how these tentacled cephalopods think.

It is the limitation of the human brain for not being able to perceive the high complexity of the cephalopod brain. But let's be optimistic, the advent of miniature sea water-proof video cameras and other sophisticated equipments coupled with extensive scientific research will reveal octopus psychology in further depth and breadth.

My personal opinion:

After reading the research reports and getting intrigued by the amazing behaviour and cognitive abilities of these cephalopods, I do agree that octopuses have high level of intellectual ability. However, the mystery behind Paul's current predictions about football is still foggy to me.

These animals can learn through observation or recognize between colours, shapes and patterns but how can he predict what will happen in the future and that too of something like football match. I feel it is mere probability or what we call chance.

Another interpretation could be that Paul is having his food from his favourite glass jar, but the keepers and the media are spreading the message in a way that people en masse starts believing and getting hypnotized by such amazing possibility. The team which is predicted to be the winner gets boosted and encouraged and finally leads their team to glorious win. On the other hand, the team which is said to lose gets nervous under their strong sporting spirit and feels some sort of discouragement, finally giving in to the situation.

Whatsoever, Paul should receive global appreciation for the accurate predictions using its intelligent supersensory brain.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I like the octopus

    • sriparna profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from New Delhi

      Yeah, octopuses live for about three years and he is already two and a half - Late Bloomer. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Donnacha C profile image

      Donnacha C 

      8 years ago from Ennis, Co Clare, Republic of Ireland

      very good hub! It`s really said that he is expected to die before the Euro 2012 finals....he has shot to fame a bit late in his life

    • sriparna profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from New Delhi

      Thank you so much cupid51 for visiting my hubs and leaving your kind comments.

    • cupid51 profile image


      8 years ago from INDIA

      This is a really great work at the right time sriparna! And I do agree with your personal opinion! Thanks for writing on the most amazing and time-demanded topic! Voted up!


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