The Loh Down On Science

Philosophical Birds

Here’s a philosophical conundrum: Why don’t scarecrows . . . scare crows? ??

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying because they’re stuffed suits. And crows?  They’re thinkers.

In 2010 ecologist John Marzluff from the University of Washington found that wild crows can recognize specific human faces. ??He and his team wanted to go deeper.

??So the team wore different face masks while imaging the birds' brains with PET scans. One was the mask worn to capture the birds initially. Bad! The other was worn when feeding them. Good!??

And? When the birds saw the scary capture mask, they instantly froze, staring. The brain regions for fear lit up. In caregiver gear? The birds swallowed excessively and pooped like excited babies. Motivation and hunger brain regions were activated.??

Maybe it seems like a no-brainer, but the fact that so many different regions lit up for each mask indicates a pretty complex--almost human--mental processing system.

??Bottom line? Be nice to crows.  Otherwise, two words: Tippi Hedren.  And if you don’t remember that Hitchcock reference, trust me, they do.

<em>The Loh Down on Science</em> is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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