Friday, January 13, 2017

The Effects of Incipient Predation on the Cognitive Abilities of Perimenopausal Women

Evolution has primed humans to give high attentional priority to potential predators in near proximity. This study quantified the effect of predator threats on cognitively demanding tasks in perimenopausal women.

Subjects were recruited through direct contact from the principal investigator's familial network. One subject, age >50, menopause status self-reported.   

Control Subjects played two rounds of Bananagrams(tm) with the principal investigator (PI).  Only subjects suitably matched to the verbal proficiency of the PI were allowed to proceed on to the second stage of the study.  Suitable matches were declared if the subject won one round and PI one round.

Predator exposure protocol A common local predator, Felis catus domestica, was obtained from the local SPCA and acclimated to the laboratory environment over a period of more than a decade.  To establish its predatory capabilities, the predator was allowed to regularly hunt rodents in its residence's motor vehicle storage unit.

The predator was roused from a nap and introduced into the area where the subject and PI were confined.  The subject was encouraged to play another round of Bananagrams(tm) with the PI, while the predator tracked her hands and sat on her tiles.  The outcome measure was the success or failure of the subject to beat the PI in rounds when she was being stalked by a predator known to her to be successful.  

Results and discussion The subject lost the round.  We hypothesize that the significant cognitive load placed on the subject by the need to track the predator, as well as regularly removing the predator from her tiles, decreased the attention she could devote to the game.  A potential confound is the need for the subject to more slowly retrieve tiles from the common pile when prompted by the "peel" stimulus, inviting the predator to pounce on her hand.

Conclusions If you want to beat your mother at a word game, get the cat to stalk her game play.


  1. Fluffy is consistently helpful.

    1. Clearly she loves The Egg more than she loves me.

  2. I LOVE this post! As I read the description of the study, I thought "this can't be real." Yet, I was intrigued by the precise details. I love the method of selecting the sample! The final conclusion is priceless. Thank you for bring smiles to my day. Doris

    1. The spark came from the PI - aka my youngest son.