CBS Local — Ravens are capable of planning for future events and bartering, and will forgo immediate rewards to obtain a better reward in the future, according to a new study.
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden discovered that ravens are more intelligent than most humans give them credit for. This was concluded after a series of four experiments in which the researchers found that ravens will use tools to receive food rewards and delay gratification.
The experiments also showed that birds are just as capable of complex thinking as mammals are. These findings also add to a larger set of data indicating that intelligence evolved independently more than once.
The research team replicated experiments that were originally designed to test how well great apes could plan — focusing on bartering or tool use to receive a food reward, according to the study.
In an email to Forbes, Frans de Waal, a psychology professor who studies primate behavior at Emory University who was not involved in the study, commended the Lund University researchers.
“In this study, the ravens even were asked to compare an immediate reward with a tool they could use later on. They needed to control the urge to take the reward,” de Waal said in the email. “The ravens performed in every way either the same or better than apes. Better even than 4-year-old children.”
What makes these findings particularly remarkable is how ravens and apes are separated by 320 million years of evolution. While these two extremely different species have different brain structures, the study shows that they have similar forms of intelligence.
Above all, the study reveals that birds’ intellectual capacities have been extremely underestimated for quite a while. It also shows how the environment can impact cognition and the evolution of intelligence, as evidenced by the ravens’ comparable performances to great apes.