Growing up we were taught the value of a hard day’s work, and that everything in life must be earned through hard work. This may sound like a uniquely human way of thinking about hard work, but humans are not alone with their ideals. Ants also tend to have a respectable work ethic. However, researchers have recently demonstrated that the appreciation ants show toward rewards increases in accordance with the amount of effort they put in to earning their rewards. It may be surprising to learn that ants and humans share similar attitudes toward hard work, but another recent study showed that ants can exercise self-control as well. Of course, ants do not possess the intelligence to be driven by ideals or principles; instead, the hard working behavior that ants demonstrate is driven by instinct.
For the study a German researcher named Tomer Czaczkes at the University of Regensburg used black garden ants in order to learn more about the manner in which ants approach difficult and easy tasks. More specifically, the researchers wanted to ascertain whether or not the ants enjoyed their sugary treats more after earning it with hard work. The experiment had ants travel down two pathways. At the end of each pathway a sugary drink waited for the ants as a reward for their hard work. One pathway was easy to navigate, while the other was more difficult. Ants that traveled along the easy pathway were given a lemon-flavored drink containing sugar. The more difficult pathway ended with a taste of rosemary-flavored sugar water. These sugar solutions were switched back and forth during the experiment. This experiment showed researchers that ants do not choose an objective favorite between the two flavors; rather, the ants preferred whichever drink was waiting for them at the end of the more difficult path. Whether the treat was lemon flavored or rosemary flavored did not matter, it was the hard work that gave the ants pleasure when consuming their treat. Similarly, ants in the wild have been observed crawling up ascending paths as opposed to descending paths when attempting to reach food. Even though descending paths require less effort to travel, ants always choose the more difficult path as the food waiting at the end is always better tasting than the food waiting at the end of the descending path.
Do you think that ants are conscious of their own hardworking lifestyles?
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