Animal Cognition

Non-human animals, that is.


Animals and mirrors:

This one is interesting to me because (1) all animals have to learn to distinguish their own bodies from things that are not part of their bodies (and this probably doesn't come pre-wired in); (2) all animals have to learn to distinguish their shadows (and other extended bodily effects) from other things happening in the environment. What can we learn about (1) and (2) from watching animals interact with mirrors?

Leopard tries to make sense of a mirror in a forest:



Coordinated chimp raid (warfare)

Capuchin monkey teaches human how to crush leaves:

Chimp watching magic:

Monkey playing in the snow:

Gorilla reunited with human friend:

Cliff-diving monkeys:

Koko grieves for dead cat:

Gorillas playing in leaves:

Chimps rock at game theory (from Marginal Revolution):

Economics assumes that people are rational, self-interested, lightning fast calculators. Obviously a bad assumption as we are constantly told. Chimps, on the other hand, are rational, self-interested, lightning fast calculators. That is the surprising conclusion to a great paper by Colin Camerer and co-authors. Camerer had chimps play versions of the matching pennies game also called the cat and mouse game. In the cat and mouse game each player can go left or go right. The cat wins when cat and mouse choose the same strategy. The mouse wins when they choose different strategies. In the simple version the best strategy is 50:50, toss a coin. When the payoffs change, however, the optimal strategies still involve randomization but they change in surprising and nonobvious ways.

Chimps play the cat and mouse game very well. First, the chimps converge on the Nash Equilibrium strategies. In one set of games the Nash equilibrium strategies had randomization frequencies of .5, .75 and .8 and the chimps played .5, .73 and .79. Second, when payoffs change the chimps adapt their strategies very quickly simply by observation of outcomes.

Camerer et al. also tested humans in similar games and they found that humans often deviate from NE play and they adjust their strategies more slowly when payoffs change, i.e. they learn more slowly! The only thing that Camerer didn’t do was to play humans against chimps in the same game. That would have been awesome!


Echo the Elephant:

Long video here. Wikipedia article here.

Elephant grief:


Parrot playing with his voice in cups

Crow intelligence — multi-step tool use:

Crow uses sequence of three tools:

Crows playing on a snowy car:

Magpie playing with dog:



Dolphin plays with bubble rings:

Dogs and wolves

A pug's emotional reaction to the end of Homeward Bound:

Little girl plays in field with 14 german shepherds:

Wolves howling:

Dog guilt:

Border collie knows 1000 toys by name:


Last updated March 16, 2016.