Clever Hans

Story from Atlas of AI

Clever Hans was a horse that was claimed to have performed arithmetic and other intellectual tasks. After a formal investigation in 1907, psychologist Oskar Pfungst demonstrated that the horse was not actually performing these mental tasks, but was watching the reactions of his trainer.

“Their intuition was right: the questioner’s posture, breathing, and facial expression would subtly change around the moment Hans reached the right answer, prompting Hans to stop there.”

“The story of Clever Hans is compelling from many angles: the relationship between desire, illusion, and action, the business of spectacles, how we anthropomorphize the nonhuman, how biases emerge, and the politics of intelligence.”

Operant Conditioning

Learning process where behaviors are modified through the association of stimuli with reinforcement or punishment. In it, operants—behaviors that affect one’s environment—are conditioned to occur or not occur depending on the environmental consequences of the behavior.