- Analogical reasoning is vital to advanced cognition and behavioral adaptation
- Some believe that analogical thinking is limited to humans or nonhuman primates
- However, crows too spontaneously solve higher-order relational matching tasks
- This is the strongest evidence yet of analogical reasoning in a nonprimate species
Analogical reasoning is vital to advanced cognition and behavioral adaptation. Many theorists deem analogical thinking to be uniquely human and to be foundational to categorization, creative problem solving, and scientific discovery . Comparative psychologists have long been interested in the species generality of analogical reasoning, but they initially found it difficult to obtain empirical support for such thinking in nonhuman animals (for pioneering efforts, see [2 and 3]). Researchers have since mustered considerable evidence and argument that relational matching-to-sample (RMTS) effectively captures the essence of analogy, in which the relevant logical arguments are presented visually [ 4]. In RMTS, choice of test pair BB would be correct if the sample pair were AA, whereas choice of test pair EF would be correct if the sample pair were CD. Critically, no items in the correct test pair physically match items in the sample pair, thus demanding that only relational sameness or differentness is available to support accurate choice responding. Initial evidence suggested that only humans and apes can successfully learn RMTS with pairs of sample and test items [ 4, 5, 6 and 7]; however, monkeys have subsequently done so [ 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12]. Here, we report that crows too exhibit relational matching behavior. Even more importantly, crows spontaneously display relational responding without ever having been trained on RMTS; they had only been trained on identity matching-to-sample (IMTS). Such robust and uninstructed relational matching behavior represents the most convincing evidence yet of analogical reasoning in a nonprimate species, as apes alone [ 7] have spontaneously exhibited RMTS behavior after only IMTS training.
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