According to the latest study, it has been revealed that ravens might know exactly what we’re thinking. That means they have the ability to think abstractly about other minds and adapt behaviors according to it.
It is good to know that ravens are recognised by many cultures around the world as being a symbol of intelligence and wisdom. On that note, we have to admit that it is a bit unusual to adapt human behaviours to animals – only humans can have an intuition and the ability to attribute their own perceptions to others.
However, a recent study called Ravens Attribute Visual Access to Unseen Competitors was published Feb. 2 in Nature Communications. In this study, ravens were taught to be aware that they could be spied on through a peep hole as they hid a cache of food.
Firstly, when the peep was open, and the recorded sound another raven played over a loudspeaker, the birds took extra care to ensure their food was placed out of sight. It turns out the ravens did not have to see the rival peering through the peep hole, thereby providing a visual cue. No, the birds seemed to be able to imagine that a potential thief could be spying on them. On the other hand, when the peep hole was closed, they did not react the same way, despite hearing the raven sounds.
As a reaction to the results of this research, Dr. Thomas Bugnyar, from the University of Vienna, said:
We show that ravens .. can generalise from their own experience using the peep hole as a pilferer and predict that audible competitors could potentially see their caches.
These whole new findings shed new light on science’s understanding of Theory of Mind, the ability to attribute mental states – including vision – to others. The reasearch that has been made on The Theory of Mind mostly involved chimpanzees and other species closely tied to humans. But while those studies have suggested that animals are able to understand what others see they rely on the test subjects’ ability to see another’s head or eyes, providing so-called ‘gaze cues’.
Here, Dr. Thomas Begnyar made a very interesting affirmation. He said that the ravens represent ‘seeing’ in a way that cannot be reduced to the tracking of these so-called ‘gaze cues’.
Of course, the study brings new insights on how the mental states of birds like ravens work and it surely takes the research involving animal communication to the next level.
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