Studies show a child wealth gap, that dogs have sense of fairness
Shall we follow canine ethics to economic justice?
Humans call themselves “homo sapiens”, since knowing is so important to our species. Yet the organ that does the knowing gets stunted by economic injustice. Even dogs know that’s unfair. Someday, may humans figure out what is fair -- keeping earnings untaxed while sharing Earth’s worth, which is the geonomic prescription. The two 2008 articles below are from the BBC of Dec 6 on brains and the AP of Dec 8 on pets.
by BBC and by Randolph E. Schmid, AP science writer
Brain tests show child wealth gap
Normal nine and 10-year-olds from rich and poor backgrounds had differing electrical activity in a part of the brain linked to problem solving, revealing the impact of deprivation.
The 26 children in the study, conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, were measured for activity in the "prefrontal cortex" of the brain. Half were from low income homes, half from high income families. During the test, an image the children had not been briefed to expect was flashed onto a screen, and their brain responses were measured.
Those from lower income families showed a lower prefrontal cortex response to it than those from wealthier households.
Dr Mark Kishiyama, one of the researchers, said: "The low socioeconomic kids were not detecting or processing the visual stimuli as well -- they were not getting that extra boost from the prefrontal cortex."
Since the children were, in health terms, normal in every way, the researchers suspected that "stressful environments" created by low socioeconomic status might be to blame.
Previous studies have suggested that children in low-income families are spoken to far less -- on average hearing 30 million fewer words by the age of four. Professor Thomas Boyce, another of the researchers, said that talking more to children could boost prefrontal cortex development.
His colleague, Professor Robert Knight, added that with "proper intervention and training", improvements could be made, even in older children.
Dr Emese Nagy, from the University of Dundee, said that it was a "pioneering" study which could aid understanding of how environment could affect brain development. "The study showed that low socioeconomic status children behaved exactly the same way as high socioeconomic status children, but their brain processed the information differently.
Studies show dogs have sense of fairness
No fair! What parent hasn't heard that from a child who thinks another youngster got more of something. Well, it turns out dogs can react the same way.
Ask them to do a trick and they'll give it a try. For a reward, sausage say, they'll happily keep at it. But if one dog gets no reward, and then sees another get sausage for doing the same trick, he may even turn away and refuse to look at you.
Dogs, like people and monkeys, seem to have a sense of fairness. "Animals react to inequity," said Friederike Range of the University of Vienna, Austria, who lead a team of researchers testing animals at the school's Clever Dog Lab. Similar responses have been seen in monkeys.
Range said she wasn't surprised at the dogs reaction, since wolves are known to cooperate with one another and appear to be sensitive to each other. Modern dogs are descended from wolves.
In the reward experiments reported in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the dogs were asked to shake hands and each could see what reward the other received. When one dog got a reward and the other didn't, the unrewarded animal stopped playing. When both got a reward all was well.
One thing that did surprise the researchers was that -- unlike primates -- the dogs didn't seem to care whether the reward was sausage or bread. And the dogs never rejected the food, something that primates had done when they thought the reward was unfair.
Clive Wynne, an associate professor in the psychology department of the University of Florida, isn't so sure the experiment measures the animals’ reaction to fairness. "What it means is individuals are responding negatively to being treated less well.”
But the researchers didn't do a control test that had been done in monkey studies, Wynne said, in which a preferred reward was visible but not given to anyone. In that case the monkeys went on strike because they could see the better reward but got something lesser.
In dogs, he noted, the quality of reward didn't seem to matter, so the test only worked when they got no reward at all, he said. However, Wynne added, there is "no doubt in my mind that dogs are very, very sensitive to what people are doing and are very smart."
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