Crows’ intelligence, new research

This video says about itself:

Sequential tool use by crow

6 Augustus 2009

New experiments by Oxford University scientists reveal that New Caledonian crows can spontaneously use up to three tools in the correct sequence to achieve a goal, something never before observed in non-human animals without explicit training.

Betty does not attempt to probe for food, but immediately uses the tabletop tool to retrieve a medium-length tool. She then appears to look into the food-tube, without probing, before using the tool to extract the longest tool. Finally, she uses this tool to retrieve the reward from the food-tube. It is noteworthy that she seems to actively dispose of each tool as its role in the sequence is completed, and she also turns the tools around in order to place the cross-piece distal, where it is most effective as a hook-like instrument.

From Current Biology:

Crows Spontaneously Exhibit Analogical Reasoning


•Analogical reasoning is vital to advanced cognition and behavioral adaptation
•Some believe that analogical thinking is limited to humans or nonhuman primates
•However, crows too spontaneously solve higher-order relational matching tasks
•This is the strongest evidence yet of analogical reasoning in a nonprimate species


Analogical reasoning is vital to advanced cognition and behavioral adaptation. Many theorists deem analogical thinking to be uniquely human and to be foundational to categorization, creative problem solving, and scientific discovery [ 1 ]. Comparative psychologists have long been interested in the species generality of analogical reasoning, but they initially found it difficult to obtain empirical support for such thinking in nonhuman animals (for pioneering efforts, see [ 2, 3 ]). Researchers have since mustered considerable evidence and argument that relational matching-to-sample (RMTS) effectively captures the essence of analogy, in which the relevant logical arguments are presented visually [ 4 ].

In RMTS, choice of test pair BB would be correct if the sample pair were AA, whereas choice of test pair EF would be correct if the sample pair were CD. Critically, no items in the correct test pair physically match items in the sample pair, thus demanding that only relational sameness or differentness is available to support accurate choice responding. Initial evidence suggested that only humans and apes can successfully learn RMTS with pairs of sample and test items [ 4–7 ]; however, monkeys have subsequently done so [ 8–12 ].

Here, we report that crows too exhibit relational matching behavior. Even more importantly, crows spontaneously display relational responding without ever having been trained on RMTS; they had only been trained on identity matching-to-sample (IMTS). Such robust and uninstructed relational matching behavior represents the most convincing evidence yet of analogical reasoning in a nonprimate species, as apes alone [ 7 ] have spontaneously exhibited RMTS behavior after only IMTS training.

9 thoughts on “Crows’ intelligence, new research

  1. Animals have long been regarded as a misunderstood species and under rated as to their intelligence, the greatest problem with the human race is their desire to seek comfort, the difference with animals they are under attack in the main by humans, and are involved primarily with survival, whereas humans as a result of either conscious or unconscious dread of existence, seek to be comforted and become more so wrapped in cotton wool, to avoid fear.
    When you see humans gawking around animals in cages or other restricted restraints upon their natural or freedom to exist, you realize how stupid humans are becoming.


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