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科学美国人60秒:乌鸦的智力与类人猿相当

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Ravens Measure Up to Great Apes on Intelligence

乌鸦的智力与类人猿相当

Ravens are known for their exceptional intelligence—in fact, they’re sometimes called “flying primates.”

乌鸦以其非凡的智力而闻名——事实上,有时乌鸦被称为“会飞的灵长类动物”。

“We knew they are very smart, but nobody had really tested this using a big and comprehensive test battery, which also then really enabled us to say, ‘Is their cognitive performance similar to those of great apes or not?’”

“我们知道乌鸦非常聪明,但没有人真正用大型和全面的测试来验证这一点,这也让我们开始怀疑,‘它们的认知表现是否与类人猿相似?’”

Simone Pika is a cognitive scientist at the University of Osnabrück in Germany. She and her colleagues wanted to see how ravens would measure up to primates across a wide array of tasks, so they subjected eight ravens to something called the Primate Cognition Test Battery—a series of 33 different tasks designed to assess various aspects of intelligence among primates.

西蒙尼·皮卡是德国奥斯纳布吕克大学的一名认知科学家。她和同事们想要看看乌鸦在各种各样的任务中如何达到灵长类动物的水平,所以他们让8只乌鸦参加了一项叫做“灵长类认知测验系列”的测试——一组包含33个不同任务的测试,旨在评估灵长类动物智力的各个方面。

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For example, one test is a game of cups you might have seen at a fair—put an object under one of three cups, move the cups around and guess which cup the object is under. Other tasks tested the ravens’ ability to determine cause and effect or to understand different quantities. Peanuts were a popular test item to keep the birds motivated.

例如,一个测试是你可能在游乐场见过的杯子游戏——把一个物体放在三个杯子中的一个下面,移动杯子,然后猜这个物体在哪个杯子下面。其他任务是测试乌鸦判断因果或理解不同数量的能力。花生是一个非常受欢迎,以保持乌鸦的激情。

Overall the researchers found that four-month-old ravens, which you might think of as “teenage” ravens, did just as well on most tasks as adult chimps and orangutans—except on tests of spatial skills.

总的来说,研究人员发现4个月大的乌鸦——你可能会认为是“青少年”乌鸦——在大多数任务中表现得和成年黑猩猩和猩猩一样好——只是除了空间技能测试。

“And that was a little surprising to us. But we used a test battery that was designed to test primate cognition. And these are tasks which may make sense for human children and great apes. And now we use this for a species which is very different. They are flying; they have beaks, communicate with beaks, don’t have hands. So I would say here maybe the task we used to test their spatial skills could be improved.”

这让我们有点惊讶。但我们用了一套测试来测试灵长类动物的认知能力。这些任务对人类儿童和类人猿来说可能是有意义的。但现在我们用它来描述一个非常不同的物种。它们飞行;它们有喙,用喙交流,没有手。所以我想说,对于乌鸦空间技能的测试,或许我们可以继续改进。

The results appear in the journal Scientific Reports.

研究结果发表在《科学报告》杂志上。

Kaeli Swift is a behavioral ecologist who studies crows and other corvids at the University of Washington. She says she was impressed by the results—and how comprehensive the tests were—but says it can be hard to assess intelligence by comparing across species.

凯莉·斯威夫特是华盛顿大学研究乌鸦和其他鸦科动物的行为生态学家。她说,自己对测试结果印象深刻,也对测试的综合性印象深刻,但是通过比较不同物种来评估智力是很困难的。

“I’d like to see a shift in our language from comparing ravens to primates, like calling them flying primates, to rethinking how we scale animals—and not putting them on such a linear scale, right, where we’re like, ‘Wow, birds are as smart as apes. That’s amazing. Who would have thought?’ It’s like, well, there’s a bunch of really smart animals, and their natural history informs a lot of their physical and social cognition. And it’s much less linear than the narrative we often tell.”

“我希望从比较乌鸦和灵长类动物,看到我们语言的转变,比如称它们为会飞的灵长类动物,重新思考我们如何看待动物,而不是把它们放在这样的线性尺度上,对吧,我们会说,‘哇,鸟类和猿类一样聪明。真不可思议!谁能想到呢?“这就像,嗯,有很多非常聪明的动物,自然历史反映了它们的身体和社会认知能力。”它比我们通常讲述的故事更直接。”

Animal intelligence, she says, is much more complex and variable than we think.

她说,远比我们想象的复杂和多变。

Ravens Measure Up to Great Apes on Intelligence

Ravens are known for their exceptional intelligence—in fact, they’re sometimes called “flying primates.”

“We knew they are very smart, but nobody had really tested this using a big and comprehensive test battery, which also then really enabled us to say, ‘Is their cognitive performance similar to those of great apes or not?’”

Simone Pika is a cognitive scientist at the University of Osnabrück in Germany. She and her colleagues wanted to see how ravens would measure up to primates across a wide array of tasks, so they subjected eight ravens to something called the Primate Cognition Test Battery—a series of 33 different tasks designed to assess various aspects of intelligence among primates.

For example, one test is a game of cups you might have seen at a fair—put an object under one of three cups, move the cups around and guess which cup the object is under. Other tasks tested the ravens’ ability to determine cause and effect or to understand different quantities. Peanuts were a popular test item to keep the birds motivated.

Overall the researchers found that four-month-old ravens, which you might think of as “teenage” ravens, did just as well on most tasks as adult chimps and orangutans—except on tests of spatial skills.

“And that was a little surprising to us. But we used a test battery that was designed to test primate cognition. And these are tasks which may make sense for human children and great apes. And now we use this for a species which is very different. They are flying; they have beaks, communicate with beaks, don’t have hands. So I would say here maybe the task we used to test their spatial skills could be improved.”

The results appear in the journal Scientific Reports. [Simone Pika et al., Ravens parallel great apes in physical and social cognitive skills]

Kaeli Swift is a behavioral ecologist who studies crows and other corvids at the University of Washington. She says she was impressed by the results—and how comprehensive the tests were—but says it can be hard to assess intelligence by comparing across species.

“I’d like to see a shift in our language from comparing ravens to primates, like calling them flying primates, to rethinking how we scale animals—and not putting them on such a linear scale, right, where we’re like, ‘Wow, birds are as smart as apes. That’s amazing. Who would have thought?’ It’s like, well, there’s a bunch of really smart animals, and their natural history informs a lot of their physical and social cognition. And it’s much less linear than the narrative we often tell.”

Animal intelligence, she says, is much more complex and variable than we think.


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