Study Shows Crows Are Capable of Recursion, a Communication Skill Thought to Be Distinctively Human

Study Shows Crows Are Capable of Recursion, a Communication Skill Thought to Be Distinctively Human

Crows are one of the most misunderstood creatures in the animal kingdom. Crows are incredibly smart and creative, and this new report shows just how intelligent they are.

Recursive sentences are a key part of language, and researchers have long wondered if animals can grasp this concept. Recursion is what allows us to form long sentences into simple ones. Scientific American reported that psychologists long thought that this was only a trait in humans.

A study of both monkeys and human adults and children in 2020 found that both humans and monkeys were able to generate recursive sequences. This is the paper that influenced Diana Liao, a postdoctoral researcher at the lab of Andreas Nieder and a professor of animal physiology, to consider if crows have this ability.

The researchers used the same protocol that was used in the previous 2020 study and found that crows produced recursive sequences in around 40 percent of trials but without the extra training that the monkeys required.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, shows that crows are better at grasping these recursive sentences than monkeys.

Although some scientists are skeptical of the results and if either crows or monkeys can grasp recursion, the findings are still groundbreaking. Liao says that the results aren’t too surprising, seeing as though birds’ ancestors diverted from those of primates.

This article by Hailey Kanowsky was first published by OneGreenPlanet on 7 November 2022. 

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