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Concept: Behavior


Kawaii (a Japanese word meaning “cute”) things are popular because they produce positive feelings. However, their effect on behavior remains unclear. In this study, three experiments were conducted to examine the effects of viewing cute images on subsequent task performance. In the first experiment, university students performed a fine motor dexterity task before and after viewing images of baby or adult animals. Performance indexed by the number of successful trials increased after viewing cute images (puppies and kittens; M ± SE = 43.9±10.3% improvement) more than after viewing images that were less cute (dogs and cats; 11.9±5.5% improvement). In the second experiment, this finding was replicated by using a non-motor visual search task. Performance improved more after viewing cute images (15.7±2.2% improvement) than after viewing less cute images (1.4±2.1% improvement). Viewing images of pleasant foods was ineffective in improving performance (1.2±2.1%). In the third experiment, participants performed a global-local letter task after viewing images of baby animals, adult animals, and neutral objects. In general, global features were processed faster than local features. However, this global precedence effect was reduced after viewing cute images. Results show that participants performed tasks requiring focused attention more carefully after viewing cute images. This is interpreted as the result of a narrowed attentional focus induced by the cuteness-triggered positive emotion that is associated with approach motivation and the tendency toward systematic processing. For future applications, cute objects may be used as an emotion elicitor to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and office work.

Concepts: Better, Psychology, Improve, Attention, Performance, Behavior, Human behavior, Behaviorism


A brain-to-brain interface (BTBI) enabled a real-time transfer of behaviorally meaningful sensorimotor information between the brains of two rats. In this BTBI, an “encoder” rat performed sensorimotor tasks that required it to select from two choices of tactile or visual stimuli. While the encoder rat performed the task, samples of its cortical activity were transmitted to matching cortical areas of a “decoder” rat using intracortical microstimulation (ICMS). The decoder rat learned to make similar behavioral selections, guided solely by the information provided by the encoder rat’s brain. These results demonstrated that a complex system was formed by coupling the animals' brains, suggesting that BTBIs can enable dyads or networks of animal’s brains to exchange, process, and store information and, hence, serve as the basis for studies of novel types of social interaction and for biological computing devices.

Concepts: Brain, Cerebral cortex, Emergence, Visual perception, The Animals, Activity, Behavior, Task


Social insects make elaborate use of simple mechanisms to achieve seemingly complex behavior and may thus provide a unique resource to discover the basic cognitive elements required for culture, i.e., group-specific behaviors that spread from “innovators” to others in the group via social learning. We first explored whether bumblebees can learn a nonnatural object manipulation task by using string pulling to access a reward that was presented out of reach. Only a small minority “innovated” and solved the task spontaneously, but most bees were able to learn to pull a string when trained in a stepwise manner. In addition, naïve bees learnt the task by observing a trained demonstrator from a distance. Learning the behavior relied on a combination of simple associative mechanisms and trial-and-error learning and did not require “insight”: naïve bees failed a “coiled-string experiment,” in which they did not receive instant visual feedback of the target moving closer when tugging on the string. In cultural diffusion experiments, the skill spread rapidly from a single knowledgeable individual to the majority of a colony’s foragers. We observed that there were several sequential sets (“generations”) of learners, so that previously naïve observers could first acquire the technique by interacting with skilled individuals and, subsequently, themselves become demonstrators for the next “generation” of learners, so that the longevity of the skill in the population could outlast the lives of informed foragers. This suggests that, so long as animals have a basic toolkit of associative and motor learning processes, the key ingredients for the cultural spread of unusual skills are already in place and do not require sophisticated cognition.

Concepts: Psychology, Insect, Cognition, Observation, Skill, Learning, Knowledge, Behavior


Society’s techno-social systems are becoming ever faster and more computer-orientated. However, far from simply generating faster versions of existing behaviour, we show that this speed-up can generate a new behavioural regime as humans lose the ability to intervene in real time. Analyzing millisecond-scale data for the world’s largest and most powerful techno-social system, the global financial market, we uncover an abrupt transition to a new all-machine phase characterized by large numbers of subsecond extreme events. The proliferation of these subsecond events shows an intriguing correlation with the onset of the system-wide financial collapse in 2008. Our findings are consistent with an emerging ecology of competitive machines featuring ‘crowds’ of predatory algorithms, and highlight the need for a new scientific theory of subsecond financial phenomena.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Human, Ecology, Greek loanwords, Science, Theory, Behavior


 To assess the impact of communicating DNA based disease risk estimates on risk-reducing health behaviours and motivation to engage in such behaviours.

Concepts: Medicine, Genetics, Epidemiology, Risk, Educational psychology, Behavior, Motivation, Human behavior


Crises in financial markets affect humans worldwide. Detailed market data on trading decisions reflect some of the complex human behavior that has led to these crises. We suggest that massive new data sources resulting from human interaction with the Internet may offer a new perspective on the behavior of market participants in periods of large market movements. By analyzing changes in Google query volumes for search terms related to finance, we find patterns that may be interpreted as “early warning signs” of stock market moves. Our results illustrate the potential that combining extensive behavioral data sets offers for a better understanding of collective human behavior.

Concepts: Psychology, Economics, Behavior, Motivation, Human behavior, World Wide Web, Stock market, Market


The Ainsworth Strange Situation Test (SST) has been widely used to demonstrate that the bond between both children and dogs to their primary carer typically meets the requirements of a secure attachment (i.e. the carer being perceived as a focus of safety and security in otherwise threatening environments), and has been adapted for cats with a similar claim made. However methodological problems in this latter research make the claim that the cat-owner bond is typically a secure attachment, operationally definable by its behaviour in the SST, questionable. We therefore developed an adapted version of the SST with the necessary methodological controls which include a full counterbalance of the procedure. A cross-over design experiment with 20 cat-owner pairs (10 each undertaking one of the two versions of the SST first) and continuous focal sampling was used to record the duration of a range of behavioural states expressed by the cats that might be useful for assessing secure attachment. Since data were not normally distributed, non-parametric analyses were used on those behaviours shown to be reliable across the two versions of the test (which excluded much cat behaviour). Although cats vocalised more when the owner rather the stranger left the cat with the other individual, there was no other evidence consistent with the interpretation of the bond between a cat and its owner meeting the requirements of a secure attachment. These results are consistent with the view that adult cats are typically quite autonomous, even in their social relationships, and not necessarily dependent on others to provide a sense of security and safety. It is concluded that alternative methods need to be developed to characterise the normal psychological features of the cat-owner bond.

Concepts: Psychology, Behavior, Cat, Felidae, Felis, Cat communication


The behavioral strategies developed by predators to capture and kill their prey are fascinating, notably for predators that forage for prey at, or beyond, the boundaries of their ecosystem. We report here the occurrence of a beaching behavior used by an alien and large-bodied freshwater predatory fish (Silurus glanis) to capture birds on land (i.e. pigeons, Columbia livia). Among a total of 45 beaching behaviors observed and filmed, 28% were successful in bird capture. Stable isotope analyses (δ(13)C and δ(15)N) of predators and their putative prey revealed a highly variable dietary contribution of land birds among individuals. Since this extreme behavior has not been reported in the native range of the species, our results suggest that some individuals in introduced predator populations may adapt their behavior to forage on novel prey in new environments, leading to behavioral and trophic specialization to actively cross the water-land interface.

Concepts: Predation, Ecology, Behavior, Hunting, Apex predator, Mobbing behavior, Predatory fish


OBJECTIVES: The objective of the present work was to study the impact of technological and social distraction on cautionary behaviours and crossing times in pedestrians. METHODS: Pedestrians were observed at 20 high-risk intersections during 1 of 3 randomly assigned time windows in 2012. Observers recorded demographic and behavioural information, including use of a mobile device (talking on the phone, text messaging, or listening to music). We examined the association between distraction and crossing behaviours, adjusting for age and gender. All multivariate analyses were conducted with random effect logistic regression (binary outcomes) and random effect linear regression (continuous outcomes), accounting for clustering by site. RESULTS: Observers recorded crossing behaviours for 1102 pedestrians. Nearly one-third (29.8%) of all pedestrians performed a distracting activity while crossing. Distractions included listening to music (11.2%), text messaging (7.3%) and using a handheld phone (6.2%). Text messaging, mobile phone use and talking with a companion increased crossing time. Texting pedestrians took 1.87 additional seconds (18.0%) to cross the average intersection (3.4 lanes), compared to undistracted pedestrians. Texting pedestrians were 3.9 times more likely than undistracted pedestrians to display at least 1 unsafe crossing behaviour (disobeying the lights, crossing mid-intersection, or failing to look both ways). Pedestrians listening to music walked more than half a second (0.54) faster across the average intersection than undistracted pedestrians. CONCLUSIONS: Distracting activity is common among pedestrians, even while crossing intersections. Technological and social distractions increase crossing times, with text messaging associated with the highest risk. Our findings suggest the need for intervention studies to reduce risk of pedestrian injury.

Concepts: Observation, Behavior, Human behavior, Mobile phone, Text messaging, Pedestrian, Distraction, Instant messaging


Dance is a universal human behaviour that is observed particularly in courtship contexts, and that provides information that could be useful to potential partners. Here, we use a data-driven approach to pinpoint the movements that discriminate female dance quality. Using 3D motion-capture we recorded women whilst they danced to a basic rhythm. Video clips of 39 resultant avatars were rated for dance quality, and those ratings were compared to quantitative measurements of the movement patterns using multi-level models. Three types of movement contributed independently to high-quality female dance: greater hip swing, more asymmetric movements of the thighs, and intermediate levels of asymmetric movements of the arms. Hip swing is a trait that identifies female movement, and the ability to move limbs asymmetrically (i.e. independently of the other) may attest to well-developed motor control, so long as this limb independence does not verge into uncontrolled pathological movement. We also found that the same level of dance quality could be predicted by different combinations of dance features. Our work opens avenues to exploring the functional significance, informational content, and temporal sequencing of the different types of movement in dance.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Behavior, Human anatomy, Human behavior, Philip Larkin, Ayatollah