How Insightful Is 'Insight'? New Caledonian Crows Do Not Attend to Object Weight during Spontaneous Stone Dropping.

10 Nov 2017

It is highly difficult to pinpoint what is going through an animal's mind when it appears to solve a problem by 'insight'. Here, we searched for an information processing error during the emergence of seemingly insightful stone dropping in New Caledonian crows. We presented these birds with the platform apparatus, where a heavy object needs to be dropped down a tube and onto a platform in order to trigger the release of food. Our results show New Caledonian crows exhibit a weight inattention error: they do not attend to the weight of an object when innovating stone dropping. This suggests that these crows do not use an understanding of force when solving the platform task in a seemingly insightful manner. Our findings showcase the power of the signature-testing approach, where experiments search for information processing biases, errors and limits, in order to make strong inferences about the functioning of animal minds.