UL: Goldfish Have Memories Measured in Seconds (Busted!)

EnolaGaia

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There's a longstanding casual claim that goldfish have incredibly short memory spans - typically cited as lasting only seconds. Here are some examples of our own members citing or playing upon this urban legend.

I guess he'd also exhibit the memory cycle of a goldfish that lasts just mere seconds.

Ah! You haven't read this month's FT where the Goldfish memory duration is debunked!

anyway, goldfish only have a very short memory so if they really thought suicidaly, it would have to be subconsciously.

I have heard that goldfish have incredibly short memories but I don't know if I believe it. I used to have a tank of fish and every time a person came to the tank, the fish got very excited and brought their little fishy faces to the surface because they knew they'd be getting food. How would they know from one day to the next unless they remembered it?

Same sort of thing with the goldfish in the pond in the garden. They have over the summer, begun to associate my walking on the decking with being fed & come to the surface for the food, even before it's out of the tub.

And who said they only have a two second memory? :?:

Looks like they have a much longer memory span than two seconds.
The gold fish in my pond, can at least remember over night, say ten to twelve hours.

'He's going to need a bigger bowl': Schoolboy angler amazed after he hooks a monster 5lb GOLDFISH
Even if you're known for having a three second memory, it's an unforgettable catch.
 

EnolaGaia

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This newly published Live Science article provides an overview of how erroneous this UL really is.
Do goldfish really have a 3-second memory?

Goldfish are known for their orange hues and terrible memories. One common saying even claims that these creatures have a mere 3-second recall.

However, this is a complete myth that, despite its lack of scientific backing, has spread widely and remained largely undisputed by the public for decades.

"What is baffling is that it's pretty much the same wherever you go in the world," Culum Brown, an expert in fish cognition at Macquarie University in Australia, told Live Science. "In some places, it's 2 seconds, and in others, it's 10 — but it's always short." ...

In reality, goldfish (Carassius auratus) have much longer memories — spanning weeks, months and even years, Brown said. And the science to back this up has been around for more than 60 years.

"We've known about the reasonably good memories of goldfish since the '50s and '60s," Brown said. "Despite what everybody thinks, they're actually really intelligent."

Brown has studied the intelligence of fish, including goldfish, for more than 25 years and thinks the misconception comes from a combination of ignorance about fish intelligence in general and guilt, because pet owners often keep them in small, boring tanks. ...

In reality, goldfish have such impressive memories, they're often used as a common model for studying memory and learning in fishes ...
FULL STORY: https://www.livescience.com/goldfish-memory.html
 
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EnolaGaia

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To illustrate how persistent this UL has been, here's the Fortean Times item debunking it - from a 2004 issue.
Forgetful Fish
Is is true about goldfishes' memory spans?

The myth
Goldfish have a three-second (or seven-second) memory span.

The "truth"
Keeping a fish in a small bowl is clearly an act of monstrous cruelty, and so a myth has arisen which allows pet owners to feel less guilty: that fish - in most versions, specifically goldfish - can't remember anything which happened more than a few seconds ago, and therefore never get bored with their tiny homes. (The precise number of seconds varies, but is generally seven or three - as usual in matters mythconceptional).

Ichthyologists have known for a long time that this isn't true, and in 2003 Dr Phil Gee, of the School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth, published research which blew it out of the water. Rsh have a memory span of at least three months, and can distinguish between different shapes, colours and sounds.

In the Plymouth experiments, goldfish were trained to press a lever to gain a food reward; when the lever was fixed to work only for an hour a day, the fish soon learned to activate it at the correct time. A number of studies have shown that farmed fish can easily be trained to feed at particular times and places, in response to an audible signal.
SALVAGED FROM THE WAYBACK MACHINE:
https://web.archive.org/web/2007110...rangedays/mythbusters/706/forgetful_fish.html
 

EnolaGaia

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Does anyone know where or when the '2 second memory' myth came from? I remember hearing it as a kid.
I haven't seen any substantive explanation for where, when or how the myth started.
 

sdoig

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My goldfish is certainly a smartie. In the morning when one of us comes into the room he dashes to the corner of the tank and tries to catch our attention.. He is of course hungry! - he knows where the food is kept as when we open the correct cupboard he goes bananas and flips out the water and gets more and more agitated looking.

He also reacts more to my wife than he does to me and my son. When we have a wee blether with him he comes up to the glass and his eyes follow us around. I genuinely can't believe how attached we are to the wee guy. (he's also my longest lived fish I've ever had - he's 8)
 
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