Crows cleverer than first thought

Corvidius

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,063
Crows nest
#41
This is the famous hook making Betty doing another test, not as spectacular as making a hook and so not as widely known. After the initial straight forward part of the test, it moves on to the meat of the matter. There are two solutions, one is to push the pot out the other end of the tube, and is probably the solution most of us would use, the other is to employ some dexterity in manipulation with her bill. It seems the less straightforward solution, but she wants the food to come to her, not to push it further away and then retrieve it. It's fair to say that pulling towards yourself is the technique used in the wild so it is more natural. After one failure, Betty sees she has to carefully balance the pot to get it over the trap, and does so quickly, and while seemingly the more complicated solution, is probably no less quicker than pushing the pot out the far end as the food has conveniently landed right at her feet with no need to move.

As for language, well corvids are songbirds and so can use syntax as all songbirds do in their songs, and, as all birds, and mammals, make calls which are able to convey simple information, but are not a language as calls cannot convey abstract thought, they cannot give a description of a person. Crows can clearly describe a person, or a location and an event, to other crows. This is not done by "song" or by what are fairly standard loud caws we are all familiar with. So the sounds that crows make to each other in "private" are neither song nor call, and it seems that is with these sounds that they convey information that is not of the moment, but is essentially abstract. There is a presumption that if an animal does not communicate exactly the same as us, then it is just making hardwired simple noises of the type, "danger" and "I'm here". Yet it is known that songbirds that actually do sing, learn their song from adult birds, and they learn as we do, and make mistakes as we do and need to correct them.

I'll repeat Frans de Waal's question, "Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?" I think we are, but some blinkers and biases need to be removed, and we need to realize that our definition of what constitutes language is precisely that, ours, an ape. Other animals are not us, the avian brain diverged from a common ancestor 300 million years ago and went down a different path. Just being different makes it hard for us to pronounce judgement from the perspective of an ape, harder still when this "other" brain is proven to be faster than ours. With ravens the difference between their brains and ours in computing speed could be the same as the difference between a Pentium III and an i7, we're the pentium btw., but I'm not suggesting that ravens are more intelligent than us as they clearly are not...... yet.....
 
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Oct 2013
4,956
Planet Nine, Oregon
#42
Reading some of Koko the gorilla's transcripts, I think any question of "intelligence" is resolved. It does need a little "push" ... she could talk with Michael (another signing gorilla) but just couldn't persuade other gorillas to learn sign language. My observation is that the findings of self awareness and true intelligence revealed in Koko don't nearly receive the attention they should get. Perhaps this is because it so unsettling ... considering how animals as a whole are treated. I don't discount fears of religious persecution, as well. I once looked at putting together a traveling museum exhibit, and was flat-out told that if it was to travel in the southern United States, the word "evolution" present in any description would completely block bookings.

It's not just gorillas. Almost all animals use vocalizations (I've argued with pikas & marmots), but I believe there's some acknowledgement of true language in more than few species. Does and fawns routinely walk through my yard: they "converse" *ALL* the time ... is it language? I'm guessing "not" ... just a constant verbal parent/child link. However, I don't doubt that many species do use conversational language. Abstract thought? You need to test for that ... like they did with Koko.
. I agree. The question is whether or not the animals are behaving as machines with algorithmic conditioned and associative responses and behaviors (the behaviorist approsch), or they understand that meaning is attributed to vocalizations, and those vocalizations can be manipulated and evolve over time. I suspect that the line is gray, as with AI. Human babies initially have simple associative and conditioned responses, and then their brains really take off. The physical ability to make complex vocalizations based on the architecture of the animal might have something to do with the complexity of neural centers and perhaps abstract thought.
 
Oct 2013
4,956
Planet Nine, Oregon
#43
This is the famous hook making Betty doing another test, not as spectacular as making a hook and so not as widely known. After the initial straight forward part of the test, it moves on to the meat of the matter. There are two solutions, one is to push the pot out the other end of the tube, and is probably the solution most of us would use, the other is to employ some dexterity in manipulation with her bill. It seems the less straightforward solution, but she wants the food to come to her, not to push it further away and then retrieve it. It's fair to say that pulling towards yourself is the technique used in the wild so it is more natural. After one failure, Betty sees she has to carefully balance the pot to get it over the trap, and does so quickly, and while seemingly the more complicated solution, is probably no less quicker than pushing the pot out the far end as the food has conveniently landed right at her feet with no need to move.

As for language, well corvids are songbirds and so can use syntax as all songbirds do in their songs, and, as all birds, and mammals, make calls which are able to convey simple information, but are not a language as calls cannot convey abstract thought, they cannot give a description of a person. Crows can clearly describe a person, or a location and an event, to other crows. This is not done by "song" or by what are fairly standard loud caws we are all familiar with. So the sounds that crows make to each other in "private" are neither song nor call, and it seems that is with these sounds that they convey information that is not of the moment, but is essentially abstract. There is a presumption that if an animal does not communicate exactly the same as us, then it is just making hardwired simple noises of the type, "danger" and "I'm here". Yet it is known that songbirds that actually do sing, learn their song from adult birds, and they learn as we do, and make mistakes as we do and need to correct them.

I'll repeat Frans de Waal's question, "Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?" I think we are, but some blinkers and biases need to be removed, and we need to realize that our definition of what constitutes language is precisely that, ours, an ape. Other animals are not us, the avian brain diverged from a common ancestor 300 million years ago and went down a different path. Just being different makes it hard for us to pronounce judgement from the perspective of an ape, harder still when this "other" brain is proven to be faster than ours. With ravens the difference between their brains and ours in computing speed could be the same as the difference between a Pentium III and an i7, we're the pentium btw., but I'm not suggesting that ravens are more intelligent than us as they clearly are not...... yet.....
100% agree. I want to click on those videos but it will eat up my data, have to do that at the library anymore.
 

Corvidius

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,063
Crows nest
#44
Hers's a question. Would it be harder to understand another species to the same level as that species understands other members of it's species, than it would be to understand ET. My thinking is that it may be harder to understand our fellow Earthlings than it would be to understand ET, presuming the ET we meet is a space traveller and so at least as intelligent as us, if not more so, and will know that we can both engage in an attempt to understand each other. No matter how intelligent a chimp or raven is, they communicate with us because they want something, usually food, and wild chimps, unlike corvids, make no attempt to communicate with us. So if we could properly understand what the raven was chuntering about in the video I posted, the one in the forest, then trying to understand ET might be a lot easier, unless it's Cthulhu perhaps...
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
2,725
Sydney
#45
An interesting aspect of the Crow intelligence is that it is not even ,
Betty is very smart while her companion is not so bright
this is like Human ,an uneven distribution rather than an equal physical characteristic

...Go CROWS !!
 
Mar 2017
781
Colorado
#46
Hers's a question. Would it be harder to understand another species to the same level as that species understands other members of it's species, than it would be to understand ET.
I think you touched on an overlooked concept: you've mentioned it a couple of times. We are restricted to our understanding of other intelligence from the way we understand our own. Cephalopods (not Cthulhu) were the brainiacs of the planet for a while: I doubt their brains work the same, yet we evaluate them in terms of tasks we can understand (solving puzzles,etc.). They can do unique things with each of 8 arms at the same time: a good portion is autonomic, but some is voluntary. What's that thing about signing your name and swinging a leg counter-clockwise?

I think we *DO* have blinders on evaluating other intelligences. If they don't think like us, if they can't pass our tests, then they aren't intelligent. All our digital electronics is "binary": it's convenient. There's no overpowering obstacle to constructing electronics in a trinary (or other) mode, if it seemed intuitive to an other intelligence.

I remember IQ tests given to chimps long ago. They didn't score very well. When given choices like "house or tree" when presented with the idea that a storm was coming, they picked "tree".

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WHY are the corvids so smart? Why do they need to be?

Of the apes, the aerialists are generally the most curious. Orangutans don't fly through trees like gibbons, but they swing their awkward bulk gracefully through trees, judging speed and weight bearing automatically, including free drops through the air ... and brains that can manage that apparently carry along enough spare space for curiosity. There's a wonderful Nat Geog special I saw on this decades ago.

I wonder what the evolution of corvid intelligence is? Did they need tool-making/puzzle-solving for a time of scarce food? Or is it the other way around? They needed puzzle solving for something else and it just happened to provide a feeding advantage? Or is it social? Did they need to be smart to communicate for improved survival by group and puzzle solving was an artifact that came along with it? Or did they need to be smart enough for puzzle solving, and language came along with it? Natural selection needs an advantage for traits to survive: at one time, ancestral corvids were just like other birds.

I live in mtns. There's a group of about 40 crows that gather in the evenings, sometimes during the day. They "grumble" at each other all the time. I've never seen ravens in groups of more than 6 or so. Ravens don't seem to have the social aspect (almost living like raptors): I wonder if they're less good at puzzle solving.
 
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specul8

Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
2,189
Australia
#48
This clever manipulation of food (manipulating it out of complex puzzles and needing a greater 'bird intelligence' to do it ) was perhaps developed by their habit of hiding food. I would watch them when I lived up on the mountain. I had the ravens trained somewhat. When I moved in I noticed they were watching but avoided contact. So I would leave food out and spy on them. Eventually I put a large dish for food and a water container on a post, and when I filled them, I would ring a 'bell' ( tap a piece iron hanging on the fence with a stone ) and spy on them.

They would eat and then fly off with the rest and hide it in various spots, sometimes in the little rows of grass mulch that the ride on mower left behind; one did that, flew into a tree and looked at it, flew around the other side and looked at it and must have seen that side poking out, so it landed, picked up some grass and adjusted it around the food to hide it better, then flew back up into the tree, looked at it, seemed satisfied and flew off.

A hollow in a tree was another fav spot they used. They must also have good memory to remember all these stash locations. And they seem to be able to count up to at least 4 (probably more ) ... that is, they can tell the difference between 1, 2, and 3 people but more than 4 they seem to think is 'a group' .
 

Corvidius

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,063
Crows nest
#49
I think you touched on an overlooked concept: you've mentioned it a couple of times. We are restricted to our understanding of other intelligence from the way we understand our own. Cephalopods (not Cthulhu) were the brainiacs of the planet for a while: I doubt their brains work the same, yet we evaluate them in terms of tasks we can understand (solving puzzles,etc.). They can do unique things with each of 8 arms at the same time: a good portion is autonomic, but some is voluntary. What's that thing about signing your name and swinging a leg counter-clockwise?

I think we *DO* have blinders on evaluating other intelligences. If they don't think like us, if they can't pass our tests, then they aren't intelligent. All our digital electronics is "binary": it's convenient. There's no overpowering obstacle to constructing electronics in a trinary (or other) mode, if it seemed intuitive to an other intelligence.

I remember IQ tests given to chimps long ago. They didn't score very well. When given choices like "house or tree" when presented with the idea that a storm was coming, they picked "tree".

------

WHY are the corvids so smart? Why do they need to be?

Of the apes, the aerialists are generally the most curious. Orangutans don't fly through trees like gibbons, but they swing their awkward bulk gracefully through trees, judging speed and weight bearing automatically, including free drops through the air ... and brains that can manage that apparently carry along enough spare space for curiosity. There's a wonderful Nat Geog special I saw on this decades ago.

I wonder what the evolution of corvid intelligence is? Did they need tool-making/puzzle-solving for a time of scarce food? Or is it the other way around? They needed puzzle solving for something else and it just happened to provide a feeding advantage? Or is it social? Did they need to be smart to communicate for improved survival by group and puzzle solving was an artifact that came along with it? Or did they need to be smart enough for puzzle solving, and language came along with it? Natural selection needs an advantage for traits to survive: at one time, ancestral corvids were just like other birds.

I live in mtns. There's a group of about 40 crows that gather in the evenings, sometimes during the day. They "grumble" at each other all the time. I've never seen ravens in groups of more than 6 or so. Ravens don't seem to have the social aspect (almost living like raptors): I wonder if they're less good at puzzle solving.
I think to ask if there is a reason to be as smart as they are, without to us an obvious reason, we need to ask why the crocodilian like tetanuran brain underwent a massive "update" to evolve into the coelurosaur brain, the "bird brain", even if also in the skull of T.rex. Unfortunately there is no answer to that question, but I would posit that as the propensity for rapid evolution existed at the base of coelurosoria, and became a hallmark of maniraptora, then there is this always existing potential for sudden and novel evolution within existing maniraptorans, and factors we do not fully understand can trigger this burst of evolution. It would seem that higher levels of intelligence would more benefit a raptor as you need more brains to hunt than to forage. Yet some corvids, the Pinyon Jay for example, live only on the seeds of the Pinyon pine, yet are not lacking in brain power, and are probably, like all corvids, more intelligent than any raptor. Living in large groups is not a factor for increased intelligence, increased ability to live in a large group and not be constantly fighting, yes, but no need for the brains to make hooks.

On which is more intelligent, crows or ravens, I think there is a bias towards crows due to Betty and that crows have been used more in experiments, so have greater exposure, and people generally say crow before raven as crows are omnipresent, unlike ravens. In this video from Lund University the researcher states that in tests crows and jays score at 97%, but ravens score at 100%, which is remarkable. I've always seen the raven as the more intelligent. It has a greater EQ and greater density of neurones, 80 times greater than ours, and I'll carry my previous processor analogy further and say that we have a HD while ravens, and all birds come to that, have an SSD.