Solve the Mouse Utopia problem?

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I've heard a lot about John B. Calhoun's experiments in the 50's though 70's. But given the dire social implications of this, it seems strange to me that I can't find any follow up on these experiments. Wouldn't everyone look at this and want to find a solution that could be applied to human society? The results of this could apply to everything from inner city violence to mars colonies. Did anyone ever find a way to get one of these mouse populations to be stable and healthy for the mice?

Behavioral Sink - Wikipedia

No small part of this ugly barbarization has been due to sheer physical congestion: a diagnosis now partly confirmed with scientific experiments with rats – for when they are placed in equally congested quarters, they exhibit the same symptoms of stress, alienation, hostility, sexual perversion, parental incompetence, and rabid violence that we now find in the Megalopolis.
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  • #2
Drakkith
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Wouldn't everyone look at this and want to find a solution that could be applied to human society?
Certainly, but animal behavioral studies are only of limited usefulness for modeling human behavior.
 
  • #3
Laroxe
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Humans seem to enjoy a good doomsday prediction and this isn't a new predisposition, Malthusian panics were particularly popular around this time, stoked by Paul R Ehrlichs dire warnings about overpopulation. Sadly in the social sciences there has always been a body of literature that seem's to reaffirm current cultural norms and beliefs rather than represent good quality science..
The starting point is in the belief that you can model human social behaviour with rodents, humans are perhaps the most social animal on the planet and are highly interdependent. part of their evolution has involved the development of complex cultures that control social behaviours. Not only that, humans have very well developed communication skills, develop hierarchies based on alliances and some appear capable of complex cognitive skills. While there is no doubt that overcrowding can increase stress, social pressures seem to have a very controlling effect, its even suggested that humans devote more of their cognitive resources to social situations than any other type of problem. People seem willing to risk their own lives for social motives and social anxiety is particularly common.
While it may be true that many of the problems in human societies appear more common in population centres, there is little evidence that these are the product of overcrowding, there are far better explanations linked to poverty, employment and education. The problems mentioned are not really a feature of the very wealthy areas and the behaviour of the majority is controlled.
I suspect that the well mannered social scientists just quietly ignore Calhoun's work, while working to confirm the currently more fashionable social causes. Because humans are so embedded in their cultural beliefs and some social scientists are human these problems can be very difficult to avoid, even when we get some objective data that might reliably predict behaviour, once people find out they go out of their way to disrupt the predictions.
 
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  • #4
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I believe the most telling animal behavior result is still B.F Skinner's work and particularly the superstitious pigeons. Simple and direct.....now we're living it.
 
  • #5
Remember the rats themselves never declared or informed Calhoun what a "rat utopia" would include. Perhaps the human "we have the bigger brain" hubris in actuality created a "rat hell". Very little stimulus other than appropriate food and water sources were provided. Modern zoology requires enrichment for animals due to studies like this https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0049180

So I would say your question is wrong on the premise, their was no "mouse utopia" instead it was a "mouse prison" and expecting imprisoned sentient creatures to act any other way is a fault of self superiority complex.
 
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  • #6
Tom.G
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...some social scientists are human...
And the others?
 
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What evidence is there that the "problem" is solvable? Perhaps the situation is that you can't have everything you want, and overcrowding is inherently harmful. Presenting the notion of 'solving the problem' proposes, without evidence, that it should be possible to have intense overcrowding without many consequences which may simply be fundamental (thus inseparable) properties of overcrowding.
 
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  • #8
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Certainly, but animal behavioral studies are only of limited usefulness for modeling human behavior.
Humans seem to me to be like "animals with an extra feature". Our intelligence lets us use complex and original methods to achieve our goals. But what we ultimately want in life isn't all that different from what an animal wants. Companionship, security, ect. Animals don't respond to drugs the way we do, but animal testing is still valuable. Psychological testing isn't perfect, but it certainly ought to be considered.

humans have very well developed communication skills, develop hierarchies based on alliances and some appear capable of complex cognitive skills.
If you have ever listened to the cadences and timing of animals barking or squeaking with each other, it is usually quite similar to human speech. It is rather like we have added an extra layer on top of an existing communication structure, rather than developed something wholly new.

While it may be true that many of the problems in human societies appear more common in population centres, there is little evidence that these are the product of overcrowding, there are far better explanations linked to poverty, employment and education.
Whenever someone says "There is little evidence" the automatic next question needs to be "How much effort has been put into finding such evidence?" In the stone age, there was little evidence that the Earth was round. ["poverty, employment and education = social ills"] is a fine hypothesis but has it been tested? Did small towns a hundred years ago really have better [PE&E] then the inner cities today?

I suspect that the well mannered social scientists just quietly ignore Calhoun's work, while working to confirm the currently more fashionable social causes. Because humans are so embedded in their cultural beliefs and some social scientists are human these problems can be very difficult to avoid, even when we get some objective data that might reliably predict behaviour, once people find out they go out of their way to disrupt the predictions.
I've encountered the conspiracy theory that some people WANT human society to collapse as Calhoun's mouse populations did, (population control) and that is why it is so hard to implement simple fixes to social problems. It would sure be helpful if I could point to some contrary studies.

Remember the rats themselves never declared or informed Calhoun what a "rat utopia" would include. Perhaps the human "we have the bigger brain" hubris in actuality created a "rat hell". Very little stimulus other than appropriate food and water sources were provided. Modern zoology requires enrichment for animals due to studies like this https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0049180
That is interesting. I wonder how modern low-income neighborhoods measure by those standards?

So I would say your question is wrong on the premise, their was no "mouse utopia" instead it was a "mouse prison" and expecting imprisoned sentient creatures to act any other way is a fault of self superiority complex.
I agree. Indeed that seems to be the point of the experiment. As I said above. Animal testing is invaluable for medicine, despite its flaws. Why shouldn't we try it for architecture and social understanding?

What evidence is there that the "problem" is solvable? Perhaps the situation is that you can't have everything you want, and overcrowding is inherently harmful. Presenting the notion of 'solving the problem' proposes, without evidence, that it should be possible to have intense overcrowding without many consequences which may simply be fundamental (thus inseparable) properties of overcrowding.
Because there is only the one Earth, and reducing the population via space travel might never happen. (It certainly isn't going to happen in the next hundred years or so.) So we are right now living in one of these experiments. Why is human population leveling off now? Is it the same thing as Calhoun's experiment? There are certainly good things about population control, but knowing how to stop the collapse certainly sounds valuable to me.

Do we have a government full of "beautiful ones" today? Are we looking at the answer to the Fermi Paradox? I'm not saying that I "know" anything in these posts. But it sure seems like something worth investigating.
 
  • #9
BillTre
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Whenever someone says "There is little evidence" the automatic next question needs to be "How much effort has been put into finding such evidence?"
I would say that in response to a "There is little evidence" statement, the next thing to do is to look for the data yourself to better support whatever it is you are advocating.
 
  • #10
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I would say that in response to a "There is little evidence" statement, the next thing to do is to look for the data yourself to better support whatever it is you are advocating.
::Starts building my own Mouse Utopia in my garage. ::
 

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