In this study we presented raccoons with a cognitive challenge known as Aesop’s Fable to investigate their understanding of cause and effect relationships. Here we see a captive raccoon presented with two columns–one containing corn cob and one with water– and a set of stones that could be used to retrieve a floating marshmallow reward from the water column.
Innovative Problem Solving
Why are some animals able to solve complex problems whereas others fail? What distinguishes successful individuals from unsuccessful individuals? Dr. Benson-Amram examined the role of motor diversity, persistence, and neophobia in problem-solving success by presenting wild spotted hyenas with a novel problem-solving task. This work was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society: B (see publications) and done in collaboration with Dr. Kay Holekamp (Michigan State University).
In collaboration with colleagues from the University of California at Berkeley, Dr. Benson-Amram also did a comparative study examining differences in problem solving abilities between wild and captive spotted hyenas. This work was published in the journal Animal Behaviour (see publications).
We are currently investigating problem-solving abilities in zebra finches, raccoons, and elephants.
- 2014. Limited social learning of a novel technical problem by spotted hyenas. Behavioural Processes, 109, 111-120 (pdf)
- 2013. A comparison of problem-solving abilities between wild and captive spotted hyenas. Animal Behaviour, 85, 349-356. (pdf)
- 2012. Innovative problem solving by wild spotted hyenas. Proceedings of the Royal Society: B, 279, 4087-4095 (pdf)