Research, Technology

Why are crows smarter than monkeys?

If you conduct a survey, which animals are the smartest,most people will point to monkeys. The behavior of these primates is sometimes really amazing, as they resemble humans. But are monkeys really the most intelligent animals? Earlier we said that the brain of birds is more perfect than the brain of mammals, including the brain of humans. To be convinced of this, it is enough to pay attention to the crows, whose brain weight is only 10-20 grams. These birds can count, use tools, plan and solve fairly complex logical puzzles. But can they compete in their cognitive abilities with monkeys? A recent study showed that they not only can, but also significantly exceed them.

The cognitive abilities of crows were higher than monkeys

What is recursive thinking

For a long time scientists believed that recursivethinking is unique to humans. Recursive thinking is the ability to distinguish between related (paired) elements nested in larger sequences. For example, there is mathematical recursion. To understand what it is, imagine a large mathematical expression in which another expression is inscribed in brackets. A person can discard what is outside the brackets and evaluate the expression inside them.

There is also grammatical recursion, whichinvolves the construction and understanding of nested phrases and constructions. For example, the phrase - "Tolya told Vova that Sasha did what Vova asked." This sentence has a nested part “Sasha did something”, which refers to another nested phrase - “what Vova asked”, with a reference to “Vova”.

Previously, it was believed that recursive thinking is characteristic only for humans.

For a human, nested constructs arenorm, without them we would not be able to communicate normally. Although the ability of human recursive thinking is also limited. After a certain depth of investment, that is, when there are too many of them, a person loses the context and, like Professor Preobrazhensky, ceases to understand “who stood on whom”.

It must be said that recursive thinking in humansworks even without any education. Music is a prime example of this. A person, even without a musical education, can usually easily pick out a separate musical phrase embedded in a long piece of music.

Monkeys also have recursive abilities

Monkeys also have recursive thinking

In 2020 Science Advances featuredpublished a study by American scientists in which uneducated people from isolated Amazonian tribes identified recursive patterns in the same way as educated people living in the United States. But children of three or four years old coped with the task worse - in half of the cases they were mistaken.

The scientists then tested the monkeys for their abilityidentify the same recursive patterns, of course, for a reward. Adult rhesus monkeys coped with the task but worse than preschoolers. They made mistakes more often, and it took longer to teach them than human babies. But most importantly, for the first time, the existence of recursive thinking in animals was proved.

The intelligence of ravens was about the same as that of children of three or four years.

Crows are more intelligent than monkeys

In a recent study published in the samejournal Science Advances, another group of scientists decided to test the recursive abilities of birds. To do this, the researchers first familiarized the crows (Corvus corone) with the symbols { }, [ ], < >, as well as examples of recursive phrases.Then the brackets were shown randomly to the birds. The crows had to create recursive sequences from brackets with their beaks, for example, { ( ) } or ( { } ). For each correctly completed task, the crows were given a treat.

To the scientists' surprise, the crows didn't need toextra education. After they were shown the samples, they were able to correctly line up phrases in 40% of the cases. In addition, they even built chains with symbols that they had not seen before. In fact, the crows performed just as well as the preschoolers and performed better than the monkeys.

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Previously, it was believed that the ability to identify recursivesequences is a defining feature of the language. That is, this ability developed in people in parallel with the development of speech. But the results of two studies suggest that recursive thinking may have evolved for purposes other than language. But it's possible that recursive logic is a key ingredient for crow communication.