Sunday, September 30, 2012

A refreshing take on research

I am a 4th year PhD student studying conflict and reconciliation in both humans and chimpanzees. Two of the things that I am most interested in are how conflict resolution behaviors are similar/different in humans and other species, and what motivates social animals (in general) to reconcile. At a recent Think Elephants presentation to a group of middleschoolers at East Side Middle School (ESMS, MS114), I asked the latter question.

I pressed the students to think about why we might be motivated to reconcile with social partners following a conflict. Within seconds, a rather unabashed student raised his hand and answered something along the lines of: “We reconcile because we want something from someone and we can’t get it otherwise.”

I have asked this same question countless times, to rooms full of academics and other working professionals. I can easily say that I have never received a more candid response. No advisor, mentor, or fellow graduate student has ever dared expose themselves in such a shameless way in a room full of others. This student’s reply not only impressed me, but it also set me down a new path of research ideas—namely on leverage, resource dynamics, and reconciliation.

This is one of the ways that I believe the Think Elephants experience can be mutually beneficial to all parties involved. It presents a unique opportunity for researchers, teachers, and students to bounce ideas off of one other. The possibility for this type of collaboration was apparent during the program’s incipient stages. I was in the beginning of my graduate studies when Josh Plotnik approached me about Think Elephants International. Over coffee one day, we discussed the need to bring these disparate parties together; after all, we all have a curiosity for animal life, why not unite both children and adults in a single forum for ideas?

That is what Think Elephants represents. A forum for collaboration between young and old, people new to scientific fields and resident experts, parents and teachers. It is an opportunity to connect these parties both locally and globally, and to share ideas in a way that was never before possible. I have spoken to numerous researchers involved in the program, and they agree that the goals of TEI are consistent with the general direction that most science and research is headed in. That is, towards a more interdisciplinary, creative, and globally collaborative enterprise.

The Think Elephants enterprise has so far been what I would call a highly refreshing experience. Technology has enhanced our ability to connect, which has been refreshing in balance with the human efforts involved in forging those connections. It is nice to have so many active parents and devoted teachers enthusiastically support our endeavors.

Further, as a graduate student, it is easy to get stuck in your own world of ideas. It is inspiring to be a part of an organization like TEI to share those ideas and begin listening to others’. Whether it’s a refreshingly honest student comment or an insight from a teacher, there is always something to be learned.

Finally, it is exciting that research might ultimately become more accessible to younger age groups as well as to under-represented minorities in science (e.g. girls, lower-income communities). The most refreshing thing is to see so many different people, all over the world, working together to make this happen.

Christine Webb
Coordinator of Special Projects

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What Is Dr. Seuss Teaching Our Kids About Elephants? Revisiting the classic children’s book: Horton Hatches the Egg

If you remember anything from this story, it’s the line:
“I meant what I said and I said what I meant, an elephant’s faithful 100%.”

If that doesn’t even ring a bell, then watch this Merrie Melodies cartoon adaptation as a refresher:

Apart from the unnecessarily suicidal fish that is undoubtedly a Warner Brothers’ contribution, the video is (fairly) faithful to the book 93%.

Where HHTE fails:
The idea that an elephant and a bird could produce a hybrid offspring simply by the former brooding the latter’s egg (even if for an exorbitantly long 51 week incubation period), is absolutely ludicrous. This is nearly grounds for revoking Dr. Seuss’ PhD entirely and referring to him instead as Mr. Geisel.

But, apart from simply pointing out the scientific blunder, I won’t touch this issue with a thirty-nine and a half foot pole. HHTE is, first and foremost, a wildly imaginative children’s book, so the aforementioned pole is of far greater utility suspending my disbelief.
(Luckily, the world’s disbelief that elephants can suspend themselves in mid-air would not again require suspension for almost an entire year. Three hundred and sixty days later, a contemporary of Dr. Seuss’ named Walt Disney would reinforce this image of flying elephants being delivered by birds.)

Where HHTE succeeds:
The topic of elephants in the circus deserves its own post entirely, so I won’t delve into that here, but certainly the general idea of wild elephant capture is worth expanding. 

The depiction of humans in HHTE does not reflect favorably upon our species. Driven by a monetary greed, the only thing that stops the hunters from killing Horton is the realization that they might be able to turn a larger profit with Horton alive.

In this fictional case, because the humans realize that there is a market for elephants hatching eggs, all of a sudden the value they place in Horton’s life skyrockets.

When the use of captive elephants as beasts of burden for the logging industry came to an abrupt halt with a ban in 1990, elephant tourism filled the void and gave the captive population a new job.

In this factual case, because elephant traders realized that the market for captive elephants had changed, all of a sudden the baby elephant that was incapable of carrying a log yesterday is more valuable than the strongest bull elephant today.

In Thailand, elephants have lived in captivity for thousands of years; this reality is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Authorities on the matter speculate that the captive population is roughly equivalent to the wild population remaining within the country, with both figures floating in the 2,000 range.

If you want to make a genuine contribution to elephant conservation, you have to try and see the big picture. You have to think about the market that exists. You have to think about what these elephants are doing in captivity and how you can be certain that the wild populations are not suffering for the sake of the captive ones. For this reason, our partner organization in conservation, the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF), follows a practice of renting elephants instead of buying them. Renting an elephant out gives the mahout a steady source of income. If instead the GTAEF bought the elephant outright, the mahout would have a substantial amount of money but would be out one very large business partner. Now, certainly the mahout has the money, but given the means to secure one, the cheapest place to find a new business partner is out in the wild.

Conservation does not happen in captivity. Certainly we want to encourage proper management of and welfare for elephants in captivity, but we must focus our attention on the wild populations. That’s why the scientists behind Think Elephants International feel obligated to learn as much as we can from the ones that live among us in a controlled setting, so that we can devise novel techniques to troubleshoot the old problems that continue to plague existing conservation efforts.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Having a chat from 10km away? Not a problem for an elephant.

Elephants are extremely social and as such spend a lot of time communicating with one another, much like we humans do as a social species. Human communication is mainly verbal although we also use gestures and this very modern thing of writing down our messages to others, even sending them across the world. 

Elephants may not be able to email or skype across the world (although the YouTube clip below suggests it won’t be long!) but their complexity in communication is quite astounding. Not only do they use a variety of vocalizations, but they also convey information through gestures, touch, chemicals and even seismic vibrations. This time I will focus on how they communicate over long distances.

Elephants produce an array of vocalizations with different meanings depending on the context. While elephants can be extremely loud, perhaps the most interesting sounds are the very low frequency rumbles that are below the range of human hearing. These low sounds travel further, allowing elephants to communicate over distances of a number of miles. This YouTube clip is an example of one of these rumbles; it’s barely audible to us so listen carefully.

Incredibly, these sounds travel seismically as well as acoustically. It’s not understood exactly how they do it yet but elephants do use this seismic energy to receive and deliver information. This long distance communication often results in mass coordination in the movements of many elephant groups so that they converge in one place or move parallel to each other, but a few miles apart. Before the discovery of these infrasonic calls this incredible coordination was a total mystery to scientists who could not understand how elephants suddenly converged in a place from huge distances, without producing an audible vocalization. 

For a far-ranging, but social, animal like an elephant long distance communication is vital. As an elephant you need to know where your family or closely bonded companions are, whether other groups have found water or food and males need to know where to find that rare resource of females that are ready to mate. So it’s not surprising that they rely on more than vocalizations to achieve all this. Elephants have been found to use chemicals and hormones to communicate. By taking some urine into their trunk and transferring it to an organ called the vomeronasal organ above the roof of their mouth they can find out which elephant it came from and what reproductive state they are in by sensing chemicals. Elephants can in fact discriminate between over 100 individuals based on their urine alone. We might be able to use facebook but we sure can’t tell our friends apart from the taste of their pee!   

Elephants are similar to us in that they have complex social relationships and these relationships can continue over huge distances. I suspect there’s a lot more to discover about the long distance coordination and communication shown by elephants that will prove them to be even better adapted to this social structure than we currently realise. Next time I’ll give a brief overview of how they communicate at close range so keep an eye out for part 2!

by Rachel Dale

Thursday, September 20, 2012


This week, the Think Elephants research team in the Golden Triangle, Thailand, are joined by their 5th group of Earthwatch volunteers. 

Earthwatch is an organization whose mission is to ‘engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education in order to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment’. Pleasingly, since this May,  5 groups of volunteers have come out to assist us with our research and important educational work. Volunteers help us conduct our behavioral experiments which are aimed at fostering a better understanding of how elephants see their physical and social worlds. The volunteers also help us in our community outreach and international education initiatives which are aimed at bringing elephants—both physically and virtually—to others in Thailand and around the world.

Currently, with this help from our volunteers, we are investigating how elephants navigate their world, conducting different tasks to test the elephants’ sense modalities. We are also developing a behavior ethogram with which the Earthwatchers have been providing assistance. It’s always a great experience to watch the elephants in the electric fence area exhibiting a diverse range of behavior and making an array of vocalizations, all of which are important and are recorded by the volunteers.

      Here, Earthwatchers are observing three of our young elephants for our behavior ethogram

One of the aims of TEI is to promote English language learning, using elephants as the central focus. Since Team 3 of Earthwatch, we have been visiting a local school called Wang Lao and teaching the kids English. The kids love the lessons, and the Earthwatchers enjoy them even more! The kids are really gaining a lot and have come a long way since the first lesson we taught. Each group has been focusing on elephant and human anatomy and has been trying to find novel ways of teaching these topics, one of these being the ‘elephant hokey pokey’! The kids have also learnt, and now frequently sing, the `heads shoulders knees and toes song’.
TEI want to educate kids and get them excited and passionate about conservation and research. We want to inspire the general public and the next generation of government officials and conservationists. Without doubt, these English lessons for the local kids, with which the volunteers lend their assistance, are really crucial.

Our volunteers come from all over the world and from a variety of backgrounds. Their contributions so far have been invaluable. For example, we have had teachers with innovative ideas for our education curriculum, and have been great at engaging the kids in a variety of ways, and engineers who have provided inspirational ideas for our experiment designs. We even used an idea from one volunteer and developed it into an experiment for the elephants and, of course, all our volunteers are elephant enthusiasts who have worked really hard and made a significant contribution to the team. Each team so far as been very different from each other and each has made its own distinctive contribution to our projects.

The awful reality is that elephants are endangered. The more we understand their behavior, the more we can do to protect them in the wild. If you want to make a difference by helping us learn more about elephants, teaching the next generation and spreading the message of elephant science and conservation, why not come and volunteer with us! To learn more about our Earthwatch project, please visit the following website.

Monday, September 17, 2012

What Is Dr. Seuss Teaching Our Kids About Elephants? Revisiting the classic children’s book: Horton Hears a Who!

If you remember anything from this story, it’s the line:
“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Even if that does jog your memory, follow the two links below to watch the animated special:

Not only does Horton hear a Who, it’s probable that Horton’s impact on the biodiversity in his environment is to credit for sustaining the entirety of Whoville. But who here will hear Horton when it’s his life that’s in danger?

Dr. Seuss deliberately wrote the book as an allegory for post-WWII US-Japanese relations. Whether he intended to or not, HHAW also creates ample space for an allegorical interpretation of wildlife conservation. The animation’s final scene so clearly portends a time when Dr. H. Hoovey and the Whos will have to save another just as Horton saved them.

From the deft precision with which Horton’s trunk grasps a speck of dust, to his incredibly perceptive ears, to the overarching themes and lessons scattered throughout, HHAW can teach us a great deal with remarkable applicability.

In Horton we have an elephant that is hell-bent on saving an endangered population of people. Meanwhile, the rest of the inhabitants in the Jungle of Nool call Horton crazy for speaking out on the behalf of those who cannot. The fear-mongering Wickersham Brothers overdramatize Horton’s behavior, rendering it as a political scheme. They accuse him of attempting to brainwash the community and literally point the finger at Horton for “trying to kill free enterprise.”

Poaching is still a huge problem for the elephant, the African species in particular. As long as there is a demand for ivory or other elephant products, the wild population of elephants will continue to shrink.
If we want to eliminate the demand for elephant products, we need to convince the consumer that elephants are not a commodity. There is not simply a supply of elephants out there in the wild, but a population of highly social and intelligent animals, the removal of which would have a tremendous effect on the plant and animal life within the environment.

At Think Elephants International, we strive to educate the residents of our “Jungle of Nool” about elephant conservation. Without an understanding of the issues surrounding the elephants, you can’t legitimately care to protect them. If we continue along in the direction we are headed and don’t change our view of the species, then we may as well boil the population in Beezelnut Oil.
Jo-Jo, a bull elephant at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, can be incredibly loud when he’s not preoccupied eating bananas (Photo Credit: Supat Sutti).

A piece of ivory is not an elephant. Traditional Chinese medicine is not an elephant. A cut of elephant meat is not an elephant. An elephant’s an elephant.

An elephant’s an elephant. No matter how massive. No matter the demand for it in various markets. No matter how valuable it might be to an individual in death, it’s far more valuable to the world in life.
The elephant’s time is running out, it’s their time to be heard.
Dr. J. Plotnik and the TEI team hear an elephant. Do you?

Friday, September 14, 2012

“I want to be a vet when I grow up!”

How many of you said that when you were a child? Or are saying it now if you are young? Maybe you noticed in our personal stories of how we each came to Think Elephants that several mentioned back in the day they too wanted to be a vet when they were older. Then somewhere along the way they decided against it and went a completely different route, one that may not have even involved animals. It wasn’t until later, perhaps university, when they discovered there were all sorts of other jobs and careers out there, aside from being a vet, where one could still be involved with the animals they loved as a child. 

At the beginning of each school year, we ask the kids in our education programs what they want to be when they grow up, and guess what? The most common answer is a veterinarian. These children have an interest in animals, and this is one of the only people they know who gets to work with animals for a living. There is absolutely nothing wrong with an 11-year old child growing up to be a vet – we need vets, we rely on their expertise to help us care for our elephants (and our pets). The issue is, what happens to those who don’t grow up to be veterinarians? 

The years between elementary school and high school are quite influential in guiding students to later career choices. Research has shown that by the time a child is about 13 or 14 years old, while they may not have decided what exactly they want to do for a career, they have decided what they don’t want to do. So if at some point that 11-year old realized they don’t want to be a vet, and this was the only career they knew of that involved animals, what will they pursue instead? Perhaps they will decide to be a lawyer, nurse, plumber, teacher, or pilot, as these are other careers with which they are familiar. We of course need people in these roles as well, but as adults, we know there are hundreds of positions that involve animals in one way or another. Does the child who decides not to be a vet have to abandon the idea of helping the animals that fascinate them?

Absolutely not. But the reason many do is because they likely haven’t been exposed to any other potential career choices. Therefore, at Think Elephants International our education programs, which are geared toward children in middle school, capitalize on students’ interest in elephants, and animals in general, and introduce them to a whole array of possible jobs and careers. Students don’t just read about a generic person working a hypothetical job, they meet these people face-to-face and hear about, and ask them about, what it is they do every day. A core part of our curriculum is providing students regular opportunities to interact with local, and not so local via videoconferencing, individuals who have careers that involve animals and/or conservation. These people are scientists, researchers, academics, government officials, policy makers, zookeepers, veterinary surgeons, and so on. Not only do these guest speakers introduce students to potential career choices in science, they serve as positive role models. One of these speakers may very well be the first networking connection a student makes along their individual career path. A path that we hope involves science and conservation! 

Jen Pokorny, Ph.D.
Head of Education Programs

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Can stories ever be science?

Anecdotal stories are seen by many as a notoriously unscientific method of assessing a hypothesis and are often rejected as valid data by scientists. However, they’re not always unreliable and can be of great value to scientists, particularly those of us who study animal cognition. Elephants are a good example of how anecdotes can be helpful in animal cognition research. It is well accepted that elephants are among the most intelligent species on the planet, yet there has been surprisingly little experimental research on their intelligence (something Think Elephants International is trying to rectify!). So how has this assumption about elephant intelligence come about? 

Well, mainly from anecdotes. But these stories can form the basis of experimental studies. Observing behaviour in a natural setting can lead us to believe that animals have a certain ability, and this observation can be followed up with more controlled tests in an experimental setting. Let me give a couple of examples.

Many instances of elephant intelligence come from elephants showing concern towards one another. For example, in Amboseli, Kenya, where almost 40 years of elephant observations have taken place, a bull elephant was seen to pull out a tranquiliser dart from another bull elephant and then dropped the dart immediately clearly suggesting this bull was aiming to help the first bull rather than merely showing interest in the dart itself. Another example is what often occurs surrounding a sick or dying elephant. Family members attempting to lift a sick animal into a standing position have been witnessed on a number of occasions and the rest of the family will usually stay close by the animal rather than following normal migration patterns, even after the animal has died. Furthermore, when passing by that area again the family may stop for a while and touch the remains of the deceased elephant.     

An elephant tries to assist a dying matriarch. Photo credit: Shivani Bhalla
These examples, among many others, have led scientists to conduct more rigorous research into elephant empathy, grief and cooperation with very positive findings. Incidentally one of these scientists was Dr Josh Plotnik (TEI Founder) who discovered that elephants understand when they need to cooperate with another in order to solve a task. These findings support the anecdotes that seemed to suggest elephants have a very high social intelligence.      

So although only ‘stories’, these anecdotal reports can give important insights into natural behaviour, as well as inspiration for controlled experiments. There are often many possible explanations for why an event or behaviour may have occurred but that does not mean that it should be overlooked entirely. Science needs these stories.

By Rachel Dale

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Elephant Personalities at the Golden Triangle- Part 3

This blog will be my final account for now on the different elephant personalities here at the Golden Triangle, Thailand. The more we learn about elephant behaviour, such as the different social interactions between elephants and their personalities, the better equipped we will be to help protect these magnificent creatures in the wild.

Firstly, I am going to tell you about a young male elephant called Pepsi who is another star elephant at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation. At only 12 years of age, and being only one of 3 male elephants at the camp, he has proven to be an extremely intelligent elephant. Pepsi has shown that he can recognise himself in the mirror, as he passed the final stage of the mirror self- recognition test. He also worked exceptionally well with Tangmo (a younger female elephant) in a co-operation task that was put in front of them. To read more about Think Elephants International’s research, please check out this section of our website:
In the olfactory research that we are currently conducting, Pepsi has shown himself to be a pro and will always know the answer to the task in a few seconds. It is always a joy to work with Pepsi on research projects as his relationship with his mahout is very special and so interesting to watch. Pepsi’s mahout is called Khun Karn and he has two very beautiful little girls who often accompany him. You will often see Pepsi from afar with two little girls on his back. Na Luck, the eldest of the two daughters, even has her own mahout tool! The relationship with Pepsi and the kids is very unique, as there are not many elephants that will let little kids climb all over their bodies. Pepsi often lets Na Luck climb onto his trunk and he will lift her over onto his back. Karn is an excellent mahout and Pepsi listens to everything that he says. Between research trials, Pepsi will often go and stand next to Karn as if for company. It’s very sweet to watch. Pepsi is a very good- looking elephant although he really enjoys wallowing and playing in the mud. Every time he comes to research, he is always a different colour depending on the mud patch in which he has rolled. In a way, he reminds me of people who like to change their hair colour as Pepsi really does look different every time I see him; from dark brown, to reddy brown to grey and then patchy, Pepsi does look good in all the different colours. Before Pepsi leaves research, he always says goodbye to us by making a loud squeak.
Pepsi having a snooze
The second elephant that I am going to tell you about is one of the most chilled out elephants at the camp, Lanna. At 24 years of age, Lanna is a very gentle-natured elephant and is generally very relaxed. I have never heard Lanna make a single noise.  Sometimes Lanna can be too chilled as at research she can take a very long time to investigate the task we give to her, and making a decision can also take her a lot of time too. Like elephant, like mahout is very true in the case of Lanna and her mahout Pong , as he is also of very similar nature, very relaxed and chilled out. However, Lanna is like a different elephant in the river as all her quietness seems to disappear - when she gets into the river, she sprays water over other elephants and generally has a great time just splashing around. After all the splashing, she will often lay under the water with her trunk stuck up in the air like a snorkel so she can still breathe.


The final elephant that I am going to tell you about is Poonlarb who is 26 years old. Poonlarb is a very interesting elephant. We are not exactly sure about her history, but when you look into her eyes you can tell she has been through a lot. Poonlarb is quite a character and is slightly cheeky.  At research, whenever she gets the task correct, she will hold on to the container for her food reward and tries not to give it back! If she gets a task wrong, it is as if she is annoyed with herself as she makes a very loud squeak.

Poonlarb is also a very excitable elephant. The other day, Poonlarb and 2 other elephants were coming down from the jungle (where they stay in the evening) to the big pond that they bathe in every morning. This particular morning must have been different as Poonlarb was very excited to get to the pond. I have never seen her move so quickly. She was trumpeting and making so much noise all the way to the pond; and when she got into the water, she made even more noise and was splashing a great deal. It was great to see Poonlarb so happy.

And so for now, I hope you have learnt something about a few of the wonderful elephants that we have the privilege of studying here in Thailand. Stay tuned in the future for some more elephant personality accounts.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Seeing Red: Why elephants might dislike the vision-based studies of their primate peers

If you aren’t familiar with the story of the blind men and the elephant, here’s the gist:

Six blind men receive word that an elephant is in their village. They have absolutely no understanding of what an elephant is, and being blind, decide to investigate by feeling it. Each of the men approaches and touches a different part of the elephant… a leg, a tusk, the trunk, etc. Consequently, each comes away with a different understanding of what an elephant is like; and they begin to argue about who is right. By and by, a wise man passes through and explains that they are all right but that each of them is only “seeing” a fraction of the whole truth. In some versions, the six men not only stop arguing but begin to work together to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the elephant.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Many morals can and have been drawn from this parable, but I want to talk about what this parable has to say about scientific research. 
Here’s what we can learn:

When you want a research subject to obtain a full understanding of a novel task, you need to be able to give the subject adequate information. What the six blind men tell us in the “elephant experiment” set before them is that, if you do not provide information to the subject through a primary mode of sensory perception, you’re bound to end up with confused interpretations.

Of course I can’t blame these six fictional men for being blind. So, let’s say instead that the subjects are not blind, but the experimenter decided not to give them visual contact with the elephant and instead provided them with only tactile information. Perhaps the experimenter gets all of his information through touch and, assuming the same of the subject, felt satisfied that he had provided adequate information to the subjects in the elephant experiment. The experimenter’s assumption leads him to misinterpret the result—that no one subject was capable of fully understanding the elephant—as a reflection of the subjects’ inadequate capabilities rather than a reflection of the inadequacy within the experimental design.

It’s kind of hard to imagine a being that gets all of its information through touch, so let’s substitute ourselves—highly visual humans—into the experimenter position. And while we’re at it let’s make the elephant the subject and the experiment about food. In this reality, the human experimenter assumes that it is sufficient to provide an elephant with visual information regarding the presence of food in an experiment. This is not a safe assumption to make when studying a species with a sense of sight that is likely to be far inferior when compared to that of humans and most other primates.

Humans are trichromatic. We have three types of cones in our eyes, one serving as a color receptor for red, one for blue, and one for green.

Anatomical evidence from the elephant eye suggests that elephants are dichromatic. Much like dogs, they only have cones for blue and green.
They cannot see red.

This inability doesn’t just mean that they miss out on one color but the vast multitude of pigments we get by mixing red with green or with blue in a wide range of ratios. Add on top of this, an apparent sensitivity to light contrast, and you have a species which relies upon its vision to the extent that we might rely upon our sense of smell.

Again, this scientific knowledge of elephant vision is speculative and stems purely from their anatomy. Actual tests for color vision are not easy. They require tightly controlled digital technology and a setting that offers consistent lighting. You can’t simply hold up various colored swatches in front of an elephant and reward them for picking the blue swatch under the assumption that they have to be able to see the color differences before they can start to favor the one that gets them food. Most of the time, you can actually discriminate between colors without having color vision at all.
For example, look at the colored squares below:

The pigment difference between these squares makes it easy to tell them apart.
Now, here are the same three squares reproduced in grayscale:

As you can see, other qualities of color beside pigment—hue, value, saturation, etc.—could serve as potential loopholes in the experiment, allowing even the dichromatic eye to pick the blue square.

But regardless of whether elephants can actually see red or not, they have every right to be frustrated when vital experimental information is not provided to them in a recognizable or appropriate fashion. We can’t count on a wise man to come strolling by and drop helpful hints to our elephants. Instead, it’s crucial that researchers see/hear/smell the world through the eyes/ears/noses of their subjects if they want to give the subject the greatest chance of success.

And THAT’s the story of the blind men and the elephant.