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If you were trying to convince another human that you yourself are also human, what would you say? Probably something about emotions, right? That might work – but other humans are more likely to believe your humanity if you talk about bodily functions.

Specifically, the word ‘poop’.

At least, that’s the finding from a study that sought to determine a “minimal Turing test”, narrowing the human-like intelligence assessment down to a single word.

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In a new paper, cognitive scientists John McCoy and Tomer Ullman of MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences (McCoy is now at the University of Pennsylvania) asked 1,089 study participants what single word they would choose for this purpose: not to help distinguish humans from machines, but to try to understand what we humans think makes us human. The next part of the study involved figuring out which of those words would be more likely to convince other humans of humanity.

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Unsurprisingly, the least successful word was robot. But the most successful – poop – was a surprise. This could, the researchers said, be because ‘taboo’ words generate an emotional response, rather than simply describing one. (1)

Ah those humans.

Amazing beings.

Trying to understand the cosmos.

Feeling love and hate.

Trying hard.

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Looking at the stars.

Wandering.

In search for meaning.

Alone with their self.

At the hardest time.

Poop!

Yeah…

Coming out in a minute!