Crows Are Capable Of Human-Style Reasoning

Danny Chapman (CC BY 2.0)

Danny Chapman (CC BY 2.0)

Today, this news, tomorrow, a bird parliament. Crows living in a controlled environment have shown that they possess a sophisticated form of reasoning believed to be a hallmark of humanity alone, Wired writes:

A type of sophisticated thinking known as “causal reasoning” [is] inferring that mechanisms you can’t see may be responsible for something. But humans aren’t alone in this ability: New Caledonian crows can also reason about hidden mechanisms, or “causal agents,” a team of scientists report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It’s the first time that this cognitive ability has been experimentally demonstrated in a species other than humans.

The tests show that the crows are “capable of causal reasoning,” Taylor says. “We expected the crows to initially be scared of the moving stick. Instead, they only became scared when they could not attribute the movement to a hidden human—which suggests the crows were reasoning that the stick’s movement was caused by that human.” The crows, he says, apparently don’t expect an inanimate object to move on its own.

Causal reasoning is “one of the most powerful human abilities,” says Alison Gopnik, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley. “It’s at the root of our understanding of the world and one another.” Indeed, it is the key mental ability for many things humans do, including inventing, making, and using tools.

25 Comments on "Crows Are Capable Of Human-Style Reasoning"

  1. kowalityjesus | Sep 22, 2012 at 3:28 pm |

    Crows and most birds are nothing short of messengers from God.  I know by first-hand experience.

    • Odious Maximus | Sep 22, 2012 at 4:46 pm |

      Too bad most of the messages they have to relay amount to, “Say, you gonna finish that?”

    • Odious Maximus | Sep 22, 2012 at 4:46 pm |

      Too bad most of the messages they have to relay amount to, “Say, you gonna finish that?”

  2. emperorreagan | Sep 22, 2012 at 6:09 pm |

    What, you’re saying all the folk tales about crows being smart are true?

    Thanks, science!

  3. emperorreagan | Sep 22, 2012 at 6:09 pm |

    What, you’re saying all the folk tales about crows being smart are true?

    Thanks, science!

  4. birds have been here four millions of years.We humans just got here.How the hell do we think we know more than nature?WE are nothing more than embroes.

  5. birds have been here four millions of years.We humans just got here.How the hell do we think we know more than nature?WE are nothing more than embroes.

  6. Isn’t it funny how animals share characterizes with humans?
    Gee, I wonder how that happened.

  7. Alternate headline: “Crows choose to let us know that they’re capable of human reasoning.” 

    • Calypso_1 | Sep 23, 2012 at 9:43 am |

      Never been worried about their human reasoning.  It’s their crow reasoning that should give you pause.

  8. lucifer69 | Sep 23, 2012 at 10:55 am |

    The Crows I’ve seen are so smart that they can get a piece of meat out of a bottle with a stick. But of late I have notice that the birds look diseased. People suck!!

  9. lucifer69 | Sep 23, 2012 at 10:55 am |

    The Crows I’ve seen are so smart that they can get a piece of meat out of a bottle with a stick. But of late I have notice that the birds look diseased. People suck!!

    • Ted Heistman | Sep 23, 2012 at 11:29 am |

       They could be just molting. The crows in Olympia WA are looking a little rough too of late but I think their OK. Change of seasons.

  10. Tio Holtzman | Sep 23, 2012 at 2:56 pm |

    Rainbow Crow brought fire from the Great Spirit down to earth.

  11. Tio Holtzman | Sep 23, 2012 at 2:56 pm |

    Rainbow Crow brought fire from the Great Spirit down to earth.

  12. There’s a crow I’ve seen several times placing walnuts under the rear tires of the last car waiting at a left turn light, then recovering them after the car cracks the nuts. The crow has to be aware of not only the line of cars at the light, but cars coming from straight ahead across the intersection as well as those cars making a left turn at the intersection from the crow’s blindside (the right hand side is blocked by waiting cars so the crow has to watch under the cars to possibly see the wheels of the left turners).

  13. There’s a crow I’ve seen several times placing walnuts under the rear tires of the last car waiting at a left turn light, then recovering them after the car cracks the nuts. The crow has to be aware of not only the line of cars at the light, but cars coming from straight ahead across the intersection as well as those cars making a left turn at the intersection from the crow’s blindside (the right hand side is blocked by waiting cars so the crow has to watch under the cars to possibly see the wheels of the left turners).

  14. blacklory | Sep 24, 2012 at 4:17 pm |

    Once again they one up our expectations! Their is so much more to them then we have been able to understand.

  15. Or they can just sense things more..sensitively, as if maybe they can sense/feel that the human is manipulating the object or not by its energy, and get startled or just confused if something without a significant life force/energy is moving by itself? Maybe just instinctual 

  16. Or they can just sense things more..sensitively, as if maybe they can sense/feel that the human is manipulating the object or not by its energy, and get startled or just confused if something without a significant life force/energy is moving by itself? Maybe just instinctual 

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