The ravens were made to choose between useless trinkets, tools to retrieve a reward or a token that could be exchanged with a human for a reward, all at a later time and in another location.
Kabadayi commented: "I'm just baffled that a 15-gram brain is able to have a concept of time and the future, and able to solve such stuff". They were then offered this choice a second time, and chose the food, showing that they were not choosing the tool because it was a highly positive object, but because of its use in the future. One of the objects is the tool they can use to open the box, the others are just distractions that will not. The tests involved seeing whether they could plan ahead for events that were 15 minutes ahead, or as long as 17 hours ahead, and were also designed to see if ravens would use self-control to get a better reward later, instead of giving in to immediate gratification.
As ravens and great apes have not shared a common ancestor for more than 300 million years, these results suggest that the cognitive "planning" abilities they share in common re-appeared, on a separate evolutionary path, in the birds. Afterwards, they looked if ravens were able to pick up the right tool from a series of other objects, and keep it for a later use.
The work presents "compelling evidence" of planning ability that goes beyond stashing food away, Markus Boeckle and Nicola Clayton of Cambridge University wrote in an accompanying commentary.
A new study showed that ravens may be smarter than we think birds. Their lives are a flow of action and reaction, making it difficult, if not impossible, to think complex scenarios through. They learned that a researcher would give food treats in exchange for a particular token. For example, they would need to remember previous interactions with other birds, which could contribute to memory and planning skills. Their research results became available earlier this week in the journal Science.
"It is conservative to conclude that ravens perform similarly to great apes and young children", the researchers write.
Osvath hopes to conduct more studies on the birds' cognitive abilities. In most cases, the ravens chose the correct tool and used it to unlock the box with a success rate of 86 percent.
Osvath says that above all, ravens are playful, and in interacting with them, one gets a sense of each individual's different personality and intelligence. It's a behaviour that's previously only ever seen in humans and great apes.
There were three tests that centered around the two tasks.
The ravens were as good with tools as apes, and in some ways better at bartering, outperforming orangutans, bonobos and chimpanzees, according to the study. Is that a raven? One of these is their ability to see ahead. A new study shows that, pound for pound, birds pack more neurons into their small brains than mammals, including primates.
Though some experts have refused to accept the conclusions and called the experiments merely 'food training'.
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