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Selected Publication:

Type of publication: Master Thesis
Type of document:

Year: 2014

Authors: Szabo, Dora

Title: Testing the generativity theory in kea (Nestor notabilis).

Source: Master Thesis, Vet. Med. Univ. Wien, pp. 47.


Benz-Schwarzburg Judith
Huber Ludwig
Schwing Raoul

Grimm Herwig

Vetmed Research Units:
Messerli Research Institute, Comparative Cognition

Graduation date: 01.10.14

In order to test (1) whether kea show signs of insight in a novel situation where the intermediate step does not provide immediate visual feedback and (2) whether systematically training the birds for the separate steps is sufficient to solve the complex problem, as suggested by Epstein’s automatic chaining hypothesis, I developed a new method to test insightful problem solving and systematically manipulated our subject’s training experience. The task required the subjects to cover a trap hole with a plastic lid lying next to the apparatus before releasing treats from a mechanical treat dispenser. Out of the ten kea enrolled to the study, seven finished all the training and testing phases. The study proved that the developed task fulfils the criteria for an insight problem task. It was challenging enough for kea to show signs of impasse, and reorganisation of their behaviour is required, since all our subjects operated the dispenser without covering the hole first. Compared to previous designs, it has the potential to overcome the issues of visual feedback and confounding pre-training. As a proof of concept, two of our subjects displayed the necessary actions in the correct order, showing that the task does not exceed their physical/motoric capabilities. I found no evidence of insight or insightful solution, although five out of eight animals managed to cover the trap hole with the lid. The experimental design could be used to investigate insight in another manipulative species and on a larger number of kea.

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