I'm looking for a short story I've read long ago, and my memory is fuzzy.

It was in an Italian-language, translated in an anthology. The anthology was probably from the 1970s or early 1980s.

It's an odd story in first person, about researchers testing the local alien intelligence; said aliens appear peaceful, shy, live in a green (forest?) planet (IIRC solar but not Mars), and love eating some herb or greenery; the test subject gets put in a maze with the treat at the end, but display odd behaviours: first run as expected, second run they test the painful path first and look meek, third run they refuse the treat. Same goes for different test subjects.

IIRC one of the other researchers was being targeted for murder.

I'd read it in the 1990s, likely first published much earlier.

The oddities get explained in the final reveal, whereby it is found out that the researchers were kidnapped by the aliens and by then subjected to testing to gauge their ability to make sense of random stimuli before going insane. The underlying theme is "how do you test for intelligence more advanced than your own?"

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    What makes you think that the story was published much earlier than 1990s? Is that book cover, or anything else? – Nikita Neganov Feb 8 at 4:45
  • @user14111 according to the unreliable narrator, the human scientists were already on that alien planet, where they discovered and studied the local alien species by running them through mazes (still on the same planet); said alien species eventually tired of being abducted and killed by said humans, and kidnapped and tested the humans. As for the murder targeting, IIRC (and am not mixing stories) it was through some "gentleman's assassin guild", further on that I can't rember, sorry. Does this help? – ptor Feb 8 at 7:50
  • @NikitaNeganov it was in some anthology in Italian (whether from English anthology wholly translated or patched post-translation I can't know), and scifi anthologies in Italian were mostly printed only up to the '70s-early '80s (damn publishers) – ptor Feb 8 at 8:01

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