Crows have a way of looking you in the eye that’s disconcerting. It’s not a casual glance. It’s clear from the intensity of their gaze that they’re sizing you up – whether as a suitable meal a la Hitchcock or as a potential subject for further study. You can dismiss your feeling of unease if you’d like, but it turns out crows really are giving you a meaningful look.
Studies show that when it comes to causal thinking (this causes that to occur) crows have the intellectual capacity of 5- to 7-year olds. They also have the ability to perform higher-order relational-matching tasks spontaneously. A study reported in Science Daily found that crows were able to correctly choose the appropriate objects even when the objects were not an exact match for the cue card. They could select the same objects but in a different size or color or when not paired in the same manner as the sample. This discovery puts crows solidly in the thinking-ability category of humans and great apes and monkeys.
“What the crows have done is a remarkable feat,” says Ed Wasserman, a psychology professor at the University of Iowa and corresponding author of the study. “That’s the marvel of the results. It’s been done before with apes and monkeys, but now we’re dealing with a bird; but not just any bird, a bird with a brain as special to birds as the brain of an ape is special to mammals.”
What does this mean? Crows are using these abilities all the time. You won’t find a crow snoozing on a couch or spending its time in mindless pursuits. To be sure, part of that is due to the sad fact that they lack opposable thumbs, which makes leisure time difficult. Then again, even without those thumbs, they’re out there actively studying the world and sizing us up. Makes you wonder what they’re thinking. And how long it will be until The Planet of the Crows hits theaters.
(featured pic from Shutterstock)