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Zoology/Probability and Other Animals


One of my 6th-grade students asked an interesting question today during a discussion of probability and risk assessment.  He asked, "Since humans have difficulties with probability/risk assessment, are there other animals that seem to be better at it?".  

Your views?

Hi will
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you but I had to do some thinking about this Also for a 6th grader to come up with this question is remarkable.
 AS far as the "other" animals I believe we have to limit our consideration to at least the mammals. Then we must think about conscious decisions as opposed to instinctive behavior. For example my wife and I have been talking lately about the squirrels who seem to wait on the curb until my car gets close before running across the street in front of me. Is the squirrel considering the odds of making it, or thinking about the risks of surviving.  I certainly doubt it. The action is strickly impulsive. Or how about the skunk in the street that stops when a car approaches. Skunks have no instinct about cars so as they would with any intruder they just stand there ground. (Keep coming and I will spray you)
 I believe that animals that rely on instinct have less trouble then humans because they are  not  going to stop and think things over. I have a robin that is raising young om my deck at this time. She does not think about what kind of a nest to build or how to care for the young. She does what her DNA directs her to do.
Other animals like the primates that exhibit learned activities do make conscious dicisions about the risks of behaving in a certain way.  


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Walter Hintz


I can answer questions about both vertebrate and invertebrate zoology. I am an expert in animal behavior, especially birds.


I have taught for over 50 years. I teach college biology courses and I have led tours to the Galapagos Islands and the Belize rain forest

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