Crows are smart. Never underestimate a crow.
Comparative psychology is “the study of nonhuman animal behavior with the dual objective of understanding the behavior for its own sake and furthering the understanding of human behavior” (American Psychological Association, n.d.). The better that we understand how crows behave, think, communicate, and solve problems, the better we will understand both crows and ourselves.
I have a short written assignment that my Intro Psych students do. After its completion, students have a greater appreciation for the crows around them.
John Marzluff, a University of Washington zoologist, has made studying crows his life’s work. In his 22-minute TEDx talk, Marzluff shares what he thinks everyone should know about crows. I assign this during the thinking chapter in Intro Psych, after we’ve covered neuroscience and learning. It makes for a nice review of previously covered content.
Here are the questions I ask my students to address:
- What three factors does Marzluff cite for the crow's problem-solving ability? Explain how each contributes to problem-solving skills.
- How do the brain areas of crows map onto the human brain? What do those brain areas do and why are they important? How do their brains differ from those of humans?
- Give an example from his talk of how the birds' behavior changed due to positive reinforcement.
- Give an example from his talk of how the birds' behavior changed due to observational learning.
- What is your reaction to this video?
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Comparative psychology. Retrieved December 26, 2018, from https://dictionary.apa.org/comparative-psychology