But there was a problem.
Other researchers protested that the... the opt-out response was simply a learned or conditioned response.
You remember intro to psychology, right?
In other words, by pressing the pass paddle, the dolphin avoided having to wait and hasten the possibility of a food reward by moving directly to the next trial.
So the experiment didn't necessarily indicate that the dolphin had knowledge of its own uncertainty, just that it wanted to avoid negative consequences.
So more recently, our researcher and his colleagues devised a new study, this time using monkeys.
In this experiment, the monkeys had to identify certain patterns displayed on a computer screen.
These patterns were analogous to the tones used in the dolphin study.
One type of pattern was of a specific density and was to be classified as dense, while the second type of pattern could vary in density, but was always less dense than the first one.
And the monkeys' task was to identify this second type as sparse.
So the denser the second type of pattern was, the more difficult the task became.
And as in a previous study, the monkeys were given a third choice that would allow them to pass on to a new trial.
But unlike in the dolphin experiment, the monkeys had to complete four trials before they got any feedback.
They didn't know if they responded correctly or incorrectly after each trial because there was no reward or punishment.
At the end of four trials, feedback was given.
The monkeys received a food reward for each correct response, and a time-out during which a buzzer was sounded for each incorrect response.
But the monkeys had no way to tell which reward or punishment was associated with which response.
And they didn't get either reward or punishment for choosing the pass option, the…um…the uncertainty response.
But nevertheless they still chose this option in the appropriate circumstances when the trial was particularly difficult.
And this is evidence that it wasn't a conditioned response, because that response didn't guarantee a faster reward.
So what does all this tell us about animal consciousness or animals' awareness of themselves and their state of mind?
Can we really know what's going on in the minds of animals?
No. Of course not.
But exploring the metacognitive capacity of animals could become an important criterion in highlighting the similarities and differences between human and animal minds.