• Are you smarter than a rat?

    Remember the Fox television show Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? In November 2011, results of the ultimate extreme version of that kind of contest were reported in Seattle at the annual meeting of the Psychonomic Society. Gene Brewer, the Arizona State researcher who collaborated on the Facebook study mentioned above, was the first author of a paper entitled "Working Memory in Rats and Humans." According to the abstract, "The quintessential instrument used by animal researchers for measuring working memory in rodents is the radial-arm maze. We constructed an 11-arm human version of the radial-arm maze and assessed individual differences in maze ability, general-fluid intelligence, and working memory capacity." A key phrase in the abstract's conclusion caught my attention: "Human behavior in the maze paralleled that found in rodents."

    I asked Brewer if that meant what I thought it did: had he actually asked people to compete against rats in a maze, almost literally running in a rat race, and found that the people did no better than the rats?