Saturday, August 18, 2007

Crows and Tool Use

There's a great post over at Mixing Memory on tool use in crows:

Meta-Tool Use and Analogical Reasoning in Crows?

Here is a brief taste of the beginning of the post:

Crows are smart. Really smart. But just how smart are they? Studying non-human primates, particularly gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees, researchers have shown that they're capable of what's called meta-tool use, or using one tool with another tool (I've mostly seen it defined as using one tool to modify or improve another tool, but more on definitions in a bit), but it's not always something these primates do readily. Monkeys (macaques, e.g.) are much less likely to display meta-tool use. Meta-tool use is difficult because it requires behaving in a way that isn't directly linked to a reward, something that non-human animals (and even human children, as the paper discussed below notes) have trouble doing. Do crows display meta-tool use when the situation requires it?

Here is the video that shows possible meta-tool use (see the post for what this means as far as crows intelligence is concerned).

And just for fun, since we're on the topic of tool use, here is one of my favorite Richard Attenborough scenes (cars make good tools):

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