Corvids can decide if a future exchange is worth waiting for

Valerie Dufour, Claudia A. F. Wascher, Anna Braun, Rachael Miller, Thomas Bugnyar

Abstract

Evidence for time-dependent calculations about future rewards is scarce in non-human animals. In non-human primates, only great apes are comparable with humans. Still, some species wait for several minutes to obtain a better reward in delayed exchange tasks. Corvids have been shown to match with non-human primates in some time-related tasks. Here, we investigate a delay of gratification in two corvid species, the carrion crow (Corvus corone) and the common raven (Corvus corax), in an exchange task. Results show that corvids success decreases quickly as delay increases, with a maximal delay of up to 320 s (more than 5 min). The decision to wait rests both on the quality of the prospective reward and the time required to obtain it. Corvids also apply tactics (placing the reward on the ground or caching it) that probably alleviate costs of waiting and distract their attention during waiting. These findings contrast previous results on delayed gratification in birds and indicate that some species may perform comparably to primates.

  • Received July 15, 2011.
  • Accepted August 22, 2011.
View Full Text