Biologists have found that ordinary crows can understand recursion

(ORDO NEWS) — Biologists from Europe have discovered that ordinary black crows are able to understand recursion – they are aware of the nature of connections in chains of nested logical structures or events, and are also able to connect the objects and subjects participating in them with each other.

“Recursion, the ability to recognize and connect nested linguistic or logical structures, has long been considered the basis of human speech and one of the unique abilities of people.

Our experiments show that black crows can cope with this task at a very high level – they are superior to macaques and perform on par with young children,” the researchers write.

According to scientists, virtually all birds from the corvid genus have highly developed mental abilities.

In particular, a few years ago, biologists proved that ordinary black crows are able to remember the faces of individuals and associate good or bad deeds with them.

In addition, they can put themselves in the shoes of other birds and be aware of their intentions, including the desire to steal their food supplies.

A group of European ornithologists led by Andreas Nieder, professor at the University of Tübingen (Germany), discovered the first evidence that common black crows are able to understand recursion.

So scientists call the ability to perceive sentences and logical constructions nested in each other, connected with each other by cause-and-effect and other relationships.

“Advanced” bird intelligence

Recursion, in accordance with the ideas of the founder of modern linguistics, Noam Chomsky, is the cornerstone of human speech and the basis for constructing sentences in all existing languages ​​of the world.

For this reason, many researchers believe that the ability to recognize and operate with recursions is a unique human trait.

On the other hand, recently biologists have uncovered hints that some species of monkeys can understand recursion.

Professor Nieder and his colleagues tested whether this skill is also characteristic of the most intelligent birds. To do this, scientists developed a recursion test that was understandable to the crows.

It was a set of cards, on which brackets of various shapes were depicted.

The birds had to understand the connection between these cards and arrange them in a certain order, in which different sets of brackets were nested inside each other.

Subsequent observations showed that the crows quickly caught the logical connections between the brackets and easily learned to nest them in the form in which the researchers conceived these logical sequences.

Moreover, the crows were able to solve complex problems with a large number of parentheses nested in each other, which were not similar to the test tasks on which the birds learned.

According to Professor Nieder and his colleagues, in this respect, the crows were superior to monkeys and were at about the same level as 3-4-year-old children, and also weakly inferior to the adult representatives of the South American Tsimane people, stuck in a primitive communal system.

This once again speaks of the unusually high level of intelligence of corvids, the researchers summed up.


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