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Decision-making flexibility in New Caledonian crows, young children and adult humans in a multi-dimensional tool-use task

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Schiestl,  Martina
Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Gray,  Russell D.
Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Miller, R., Gruber, R., Frohnwieser, A., Schiestl, M., Jelbert, S. A., Gray, R. D., et al. (2020). Decision-making flexibility in New Caledonian crows, young children and adult humans in a multi-dimensional tool-use task. PLoS One, 15(3): e0219874. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0219874.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-5AD7-2
Abstract
The ability to make profitable decisions in natural foraging contexts may be influenced by an additional requirement of tool-use, due to increased levels of relational complexity and additional work-effort imposed by tool-use, compared with simply choosing between an immediate and delayed food item. We examined the flexibility for making the most profitable decisions in a multi-dimensional tool-use task, involving different apparatuses, tools and rewards of varying quality, in 3-5-year-old children, adult humans and tool-making New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides). We also compared our results to previous studies on habitually tool-making orangutans (Pongo abelii) and non-tool-making Goffin’s cockatoos (Cacatua goffiniana). Adult humans, cockatoos and crows, but not children and orangutans, did not select a tool when it was not necessary, which was the more profitable choice in this situation. Adult humans, orangutans and cockatoos, but not crows and children, were able to refrain from selecting non-functional tools. By contrast, the birds, but not the primates tested, struggled to attend to multiple variables—where two apparatuses, two tools and two reward qualities were presented simultaneously—without extended experience. These findings indicate: (1) in a similar manner to humans and orangutans, New Caledonian crows and Goffin’s cockatoos can flexibly make profitable decisions in some decision-making tool-use tasks, though the birds may struggle when tasks become more complex; (2) children and orangutans may have a bias to use tools in situations where adults and other tool-making species do not. © 2020 Miller et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.