Corvids avoid odd evaluation by following simple rules in a risky exchange task

Dufour, Valérie, Broihanne, Marie‐Hélène and Wascher, Claudia A. F. (2020) Corvids avoid odd evaluation by following simple rules in a risky exchange task. Ethology, 126 (2). pp. 153-164. ISSN 1439-0310

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In their natural environment, animals often make decisions crucial for survival, such as choosing the best patch or food, or the best partner to cooperate. The choice can be compared to a gamble with an outcome that is predictable but not certain, such as rolling a dice. In economics, such a situation is called a risky context. Several models show that although individuals can generally evaluate the odds of each potential outcome, they can be subject to errors of judgment or choose according to decision‐making heuristics (simple decision rules). In non‐human primates, similar errors of judgment have been reported and we have recently shown that they also use a decisional heuristics when confronted with a risky choice in an exchange task. This suggests a common evolutionary origin to the mechanisms underlying decision‐making under risk in primates. However, whether the same mechanisms are also present in more distantly related taxa needs to be further investigated. Other social species, like corvids, are renowned for their advanced cognitive skills and may show similar responses. Here, we analyse data on corvids (carrion crows, hooded crows, common ravens and rooks) tested in a risky exchange task comparable to the one used in non‐human primates. We investigated whether corvids could exchange according to the odds of success or, alternatively, whether they used a heuristic similar to the one used by non‐human primates. Instead, most corvids chose a course of action (either a low or high exchange rate) that remained constant throughout the study. In general, corvids’ mean exchange rates were lower compared to non‐human primates, indicating that they were either risk‐adverse or that they do not possess the cognitive capabilities to evaluate odds. Further studies are required to evaluate the flexibility in exchange abilities of these birds in exchange abilities of these birds.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: carrion crows, common ravens, decision‐making, heuristics, hooded crows, rooks
Faculty: Faculty of Science & Engineering
Depositing User: Lisa Blanshard
Date Deposited: 05 Feb 2020 11:41
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2022 10:46

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