The Fact That Fish Have a 3 Second Memory is Just Plain Wrong

Capable of Pavlovian Learning

Fish are also capable of Pavlovian learning, just like dogs and many other vertebrates. That’s when an animal learns to associate a stimulus—like food—with a completely unrelated cue—like a bell.

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For example, rainbowfish were able to associate a light turning on with food after about 14 repetitions. It takes rats about 40 repetitions before they learn a similar association. And the memories fish form last a whole lot longer than 3 seconds.

Lab experiments have shown that rainbowfish can remember the location of a hole in a net for a whole year—and given that they typically only live about 2 years in the wild, a year is a pretty long time. And not only do their memories last—some fish are really quick learners.

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