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An ‘unkindness’ of ravens? Measuring prosocial preferences in Corvus corax

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In recent years, there has been considerable research effort to determine whether other species exhibit prosocial motivations parallel to those of humans; however, these studies have focused primarily on primates, and with mixed results. We presented captive ravens with a modified prosocial choice task which aimed to address several criticisms of previous methods by including a stringent pretraining regime and a set-up that disentangles motivation to provision a conspecific from motivation to feed next to one. In this task six subjects received no rewards for themselves but could choose to deliver food rewards to either a conspecific or an empty, inaccessible compartment. Subjects did not demonstrate any prosocial tendencies (i.e. they did not preferentially choose to reward a conspecific over the empty compartment), and instead often ceased pulling on test trials when they received nothing for themselves (up to 70% of 80 trials with a partner present, up to 83% of 40 trials in a nonsocial control condition). The relationship between the subject and the partner had no influence on the subject's choices; however, subjects were more likely to pull immediately after performing socio-agonistic displays. Our results contribute to a growing body of evidence that despite their sophisticated social cognitive abilities and range of cooperative behaviours exhibited in the wild, unpaired (or unbonded) ravens do not seem to act to benefit conspecifics in the absence of immediate self-gain.
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-393
Number of pages11
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Volume123
Early online date18 Dec 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017

    Research areas

  • Altruism, Avian cognition, Corvid, Corvus corax, Prosociality, Raven

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