Intelligent Crows Flunk Causality Test But Babies Pass

You drop a block onto a box, and a toy pops out. If a baby was watching you, she could deduce that your action caused the happy arrival of the toy, because she understands cause and effect. She’d also realise that she could trigger the same event by placing a block on the box herself, because she canuse her knowledge to actively shape her world.

These two abilities—understanding causality, and using that understanding—seem so simple and mundane to us that it feels weird to lay them out, and weirder still to separate them. But they are separate. That much becomes clear when you study an animal that can do one of these things and not the other.

The New Caledonian crow is one such animal.

via Intelligent Crows Flunk Causality Test But Babies Pass – Phenomena: Not Exactly Rocket Science.

Every so often we get a reminder that humans are not born blank slates, and that we come with some pre-wired understandings of the world.  One of them appears to be our understanding of causality, which it looks like not all intelligent creatures possess.  The question now is whether other intelligent species such as non-human primates, elephants, or dolphins have it.

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2 Responses to Intelligent Crows Flunk Causality Test But Babies Pass

  1. James Pailly says:

    This is fascinating. I’ve taken a great interest in animal intelligence, particularly the intelligence of crows, octopi, and dolphins. This is an interesting limitation that we should study further. I wonder how long it would take for crows to evolve to a point that they could understand causality the way we do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good question. I also find it interesting that human babies understand causality. It’s not something we learn about the universe. It makes me wonder if we have a tendency to see it where it doesn’t exist.

      Liked by 1 person

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