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Do New Caledonian crows solve physical problems through causal reasoning?

By A.H. Taylor, G.R. Hunt, F.S. Medina and R.D. Gray


The extent to which animals other than humans can reason about physical problems is contentious. The benchmark test for this ability has been the trap-tube task. We presented New Caledonian crows with a series of two-trap versions of this problem. Three out of six crows solved the initial trap-tube. These crows continued to avoid the trap when the arbitrary features that had previously been associated with successful performances were removed. However, they did not avoid the trap when a hole and a functional trap were in the tube. In contrast to a recent primate study, the three crows then solved a causally equivalent but visually distinct problem—the trap-table task. The performance of the three crows across the four transfers made explanations based on chance, associative learning, visual and tactile generalization, and previous dispositions unlikely. Our findings suggest that New Caledonian crows can solve complex physical problems by reasoning both causally and analogically about causal relations. Causal and analogical reasoning may form the basis of the New Caledonian crow's exceptional tool skills

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: The Royal Society
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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