Using the aesop's fable paradigm to investigate causal understanding of water displacement by new caledonian crows

Sarah A. Jelbert, Alex H. Taylor, Lucy G. Cheke, Nicola S. Clayton, Russell D. Gray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Understanding causal regularities in the world is a key feature of human cognition. However, the extent to which nonhuman animals are capable of causal understanding is not well understood. Here, we used the Aesop's fable paradigm - in which subjects drop stones into water to raise the water level and obtain an out of reach reward - to assess New Caledonian crows' causal understanding of water displacement. We found that crows preferentially dropped stones into a water-filled tube instead of a sand-filled tube; they dropped sinking objects rather than floating objects; solid objects rather than hollow objects, and they dropped objects into a tube with a high water level rather than a low one. However, they failed two more challenging tasks which required them to attend to the width of the tube, and to counter-intuitive causal cues in a U-shaped apparatus. Our results indicate that New Caledonian crows possess a sophisticated, but incomplete, understanding of the causal properties of displacement, rivalling that of 5-7 year old children.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere92895
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume9
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2014

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Using the aesop's fable paradigm to investigate causal understanding of water displacement by new caledonian crows'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this