Or so it seems. From ScienceDaily:
New research conducted by UC Santa Barbara’s Corina Logan, with her collaborators at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, demonstrates the birds’ intellectual prowess may be more fact than fiction. Her findings appear today in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.
Logan is lead author of the paper, which examines causal cognition using a water displacement paradigm. “We showed that crows can discriminate between different volumes of water and that they can pass a modified test that so far only 7- to 10-year-old children have been able to complete successfully. We provide the strongest evidence so far that the birds attend to cause-and-effect relationships by choosing options that displace more water.”
While humans are able to understand much about causality, it is unclear to what extent non-human animals can do the same. The Aesop’s Fable paradigm requires an animal to drop stones into a water-filled tube to bring a floating food reward within reach. Rook, Eurasian jay, and New Caledonian crow performances are similar to those of children under seven years of age when solving this task. However, we know very little about the cognition underpinning these birds’ performances. Here, we address several limitations of previous Aesop’s Fable studies to gain insight into the causal cognition of New Caledonian crows. Our results provide the first evidence that any non-human animal can solve the U-tube task and can discriminate between water-filled tubes of different volumes. However, our results do not provide support for the hypothesis that these crows can infer the presence of a hidden causal mechanism. They also call into question previous object-discrimination performances. The methodologies outlined here should allow for more powerful comparisons between humans and other animal species and thus help us to determine which aspects of causal cognition are distinct to humans. (Open access)
It would be interesting to compare crows to chimpanzees on tests of this type, as well as children (as here).
See also: Claim: Crows’ causal understanding rivals that of 5-7 year old children
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5 Replies to “New Zealand crows get smarter every time we study them”
This reminds me of this quip from crev.info:
Bur seriously, in ‘Origin of Species’ Charles Darwin claimed that,,,
Yet one thing that drastically separates man from animals, (i.e. part of the ‘image of God’ inherent to man), is our ability to communicate information.
In fact, the three r’s, ‘reading, writing, and arithmetic’, are the first things to be taught to children when they enter school. And in direct contradiction to Darwin’s claim that we have no right to believe that God creates ‘in ways analogous to the intellectual powers of the human mind’, at the heart of life, we find ‘reading, writing, and arithmetic’ (information processing) to be central to biological life:
Also of note, William Dembski, in his forthcoming book, will make the case that it is information, not matter and energy, that is the fundamental ‘stuff’ of the universe:
Verse and Music:
I’m not sure how to say this diplomatically, but it might not be precisely true that the New Caledonian Crow (Corvus moneduloides) is getting smarter, relatively speaking . . . 😉
I find studies like this fascinating, though not too surprising.
I, myself, have a parrot and see every day just how intelligent these creatures can be.
To be honest, I think it’s just the researchers getting dumber. The crows haven’t changed.
No insult intended to TSErik and parrot. 🙂
What amazes me regarding the intelligence of crows and parrots is their small brain volume.