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The intelligence of crows: A short writing assignment 

sue_frantz
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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? 

 

  Video Link : 2348

 

Reference

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Comparative psychology. Retrieved December 26, 2018, from https://dictionary.apa.org/comparative-psychology

About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology in community colleges since 1992, and has been at Highline College in the Seattle area since 2001. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award . She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed.