A new study has found that fish process and evaluate information to account for misinformation and avoid overreactions.
The study was done by analyzing footage of fish feeding on a reef in Mo’orea, French Polynesia. Feeding in a dangerous part of the reef full of predators, the reef fish exhibited skittish and fearful behavior. However, by analyzing the footage, the researchers found that fish analyze what they see and “tune down” their state of alertness toward social cues from other fish.
The researchers think the fish don’t necessarily understand the difference between real threats and misinformation. Instead, they are less sensitive in situations likely to produce a false alarm.
Commenting on the research study, senior author and assistant professor of computational biology at Cornell University Andrew Hein said:
“When we looked at the features of the model that matched observed behavior, we found that it adjusts the sensitivity of individuals to signals produced by others, based on the past history of what they’ve been seeing. So, they seem to be dynamically adjusting the sensitivity.”
“Mechanisms for adjusting sensitivity are actually crucial if you’re going to maintain control over your behavior. Because of its simplicity, and the ease with which it can be implemented in the nervous system, we believe this form of dynamic control of sensitivity may be widespread in biological systems and may have evolved as a simple but robust way of coping with misinformation.”
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