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ERC

CAUSCOG Report Summary

Project ID: 339993
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: United Kingdom

Mid-Term Report Summary - CAUSCOG (Tool Use As A Tool For Understanding Causal Cognition In Humans And Corvids)

The human ability to understand causality is at the very core of modern civilisation. Our ability to understand ‘how things work’ has enabled us to shape the world in countless ways. Strikingly, a number of non-human animals – such as tool-using apes and corvids –perform behaviours that also suggest they understand elements of causality. However, traditionally, we have only had a cursory understanding of what human and non-human causal knowledge comprises, because studies of tool use and problem-solving have largely been descriptive rather than mechanistic.

In our research, by comparing the cognitive mechanisms that corvids, children and adults use to solve similar problems, we are addressing key questions such as: (1) how do humans understand the physical world and solve problems? (2) what other ways of understanding causality and problem solving has evolution produced? and (3) what selective pressures lead to the evolution of causal cognition? The overarching aim of our research programme is to create a coherent, experimentally-tested, theoretical framework of the cognitive mechanisms underlying causal knowledge in corvids and humans, both young and adult.

To date, thanks to this ERC grant, we have established a hand-raised population of corvids at our facilities in Cambridge, where we have been studying the development of casual reasoning capacities in these birds over the course of their first year of life. We have formed connections with schools across Cambridgeshire to run a number of studies assessing the development of causal knowledge in young children. Members of our team have also conducted fieldwork in New Caledonia, where we have been studying the cognitive abilities of tool-making New Caledonian crows on comparative tasks. The results from these comparative studies are continuously being compiled to inform us about the differences, as well as similarities, in the mechanisms that underpin causal knowledge in corvids and humans. We have had a number of papers published, submitted or in preparation from this work, and have been active in sharing our results and research methods with the public, at a wide range of outreach events.

Contact

Liesbeth Krul, (Assistant Director)
Tel.: +44 1223 333543
Fax: +44 1223 332988
E-mail
Record Number: 197621 / Last updated on: 2017-05-15
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