As if they were not already the protagonists of many creepy stories, it seems that ravens are capable of more complex thoughts than expected. These mysterious birds can imagine all sorts of situations just like us humans.
For a very long time it has been largely believed that abstract thoughts were a unique human trait. However, a new study conducted by the University of Vienna and the University of Houston has reached the conclusion that ravens can change their behavior depending on their perceptions of others. The results were published in the journal Nature Communications.
So how could the researchers determine the way ravens think? By observing their behavior and attitude. For example, if a peephole stood open and the ravens could hear the sounds made by other birds, they would guard their food. And they would continue to do so even if they did not see the other birds. However, once the peephole was closed, they would not adopt the same attitude.
The marvelous study contains valuable information to something called the Theory of Mind, which basically refers to attributing certain mental states to other persons. It seems that ravens can understand what their fellows see, but only if they can gaze upon the eyes of the respective bird. Furthermore, their behavior changes dramatically when they believe someone is watching them. For instance, they tend to hide their food or avoid returning to their hiding place out of fear of disclosing their secret.
This particular study involved two rooms connected by several windows and peepholes. The ravens would watch humans prepare food through the peepholes. However, when the windows were covered and only the peephole stayed open the birds still chose to hide their food, even though they had no evidence of being watched.
If there is one common aspect between ravens and humans, it is their social life. Both species go through changes in this respect, from interactions with many others over the course of teenage years to stable pairs as adults. And just like us humans, ravens can quickly change their friends and enemies, demonstrating an extraordinary flexibility. Not to mention their capabilities of completing complex puzzles, mimicking human speech and showing true empathy for others.
While ravens are capable of more complex thoughts than expected, they are also showing us humans that we are not one of a kind after all. According to the leader of the study, Cameron Buckner, this discovery will certainly make us question and ultimately find what truly makes the human mind so unique.
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