Ravens Capable of Imagining Being Spied On

ravenMore evidence that abstract reasoning is not confined to humans — and that there is no hard-edged boundary between humans and the rest of Nature, but rather a continuum.

AN EXPERIMENT has proven that ravens can imagine being spied on and adapt their behavior accordingly, showing an ability to engage in abstract thinking, previously attributed exclusively to humans and apes.

Ravens have an understanding of what could be going on in another raven’s mind, a study carried out by a group of Austrian and American scientists and published in the Nature Communication journal suggests. The birds are particularly capable of imagining being watched — which comes in handy when hiding food.

It materialized that ravens, believed to be one of the most intelligent birds as it is, pay particular attention to the hiding process if there’s any suspicion that another bird might be present.

The scientists watched over 10 ravens that had been raised in captivity over six months. The birds were kept in separate rooms and could monitor each other through windows that initially had not been covered. The next step was covering the windows with cloth and leaving a peephole that could be closed or opened.Ravens demonstrated extra carefulness while finding a place to hide their treats only when a peephole was open and they knew that other birds may be watching them.

“Ravens.. take into account the visual access of others, even when they cannot see a conspecific,” the study states.

Such a phenomenon is what psychologists call Theory of Mind. Previously found only in human and apes, it allows an individual to see things from someone else’s point of view.

Our results suggest that ravens can generalize from their own perceptual experience to infer the possibility of being seen,” it also says.

Previous tests with chimpanzees set scientists thinking that animals can understand what others are seeing based on eye movements and other behavioral indicators. Ravens, however, have shown that they are capable of building mental abstractions without what scientists call “gaze cues”.

“These findings confirm and unite previous work, providing strong evidence that ravens are more than mere behaviour-readers,” the study concludes.

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Source: RT

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Anthony Collins
Anthony Collins
3 February, 2016 6:25 am

It’s sometimes uncanny how, shortly after reading or thinking about a particular subject, one finds an article on that subject on a website one regularly visits — even when that subject is not especially topical, like a news item or a review of a new book. Just the other day, I was looking at Kristin Andrews’ recent book, The Animal Mind: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Animal Cognition (London: Routledge, 2015), which addresses some of the issues raised in this article, including the theory of mind.

Arvin N. Prebost
Arvin N. Prebost
5 February, 2016 12:00 pm

My dog, when he has a bone, knows that we are watching him to see where he will bury it.

He pretends to bury it, then, when he thinks we are not looking, goes back, gets it, and reburies it.

It is not just humans, apes and ravens.