Innovation

Innovations, new behaviours that promptly appear in a population are important factors contributing to the problem solving abilities of many animals and are widely believed to be closely linked to high-level cognitive processing. Species with so-called ‘general intelligence’, showing high flexibility in a broad range of different problem solving tasks can be considered particularly interesting candidates for studying innovative problem solving. In this program, we use the Goffin’s cockatoo to study a number of important aspects of innovative behaviour. We apply two batteries of tasks to study the influence of individual learning mechanisms as well as individual traits (such as sex, status and personality) on innovation rate and to uncover possible strategies underlying innovation. In this respect we are also specifically interested in whether innovations appear in the animals’ repertoire while actively seeking solutions to given problems or through accidental discoveries of solutions.  
Within a second line of research we proceed to apply innovation tasks requiring advanced physical intelligence that have previously been addressed in adaptive specialists (eg. Habitual tool users). The first is a hook-bending task, an example of innovative tool manufacture, while the second is a sequential tool use task, an example of associative tool behaviour. Both tasks have previously been largely applied to species with possible ecological predispositions for handling tools (tool use and/or nest construction), which are lacking in the Goffin’s cockatoo.
Project leader: Alice Auersperg
Project participants: upcoming
Running time: September 2016-August 2019
Funded by: FWF the Austrian Science Fund.

 

Tool Manufacture

In this project we confront our subjects with set of controlled problem solving experiments featuring different foraging problems and different materials for making tools: We will study the animals' flexibility and goal directedness as well as the appreciation of functionality when making a tool in order to determine to what extent their performance meets the criteria for flexible, 'intelligent' tool manufacture. We additionally analyse cost evaluation involved in manufactured tools by looking at tool 'safekeeping'.

The project will help us to understand how events of innovative tool manufacture can originate outside primates and ultimately widen our scope and enhance our knowledge on the role of innovation in the formation of tool related abilities.

Project leader: Alice Auersperg

Project participants: Mark O’Hara (Technician), Andreas Auersperg (Technican), upcoming

Running time: April 2016-March2019

Funded by: FWF the Austrian Science Fund.

 

Field Project

In this project we confront our subjects with set of controlled problem solving experiments featuring different foraging problems and different materials for making tools: We will study the animals' flexibility and goal directedness as well as the appreciation of functionality when making a tool in order to determine to what extent their performance meets the criteria for flexible, 'intelligent' tool manufacture. We additionally analyse cost evaluation involved in manufactured tools by looking at tool 'safekeeping'.

The project will help us to understand how events of innovative tool manufacture can originate outside primates and ultimately widen our scope and enhance our knowledge on the role of innovation in the formation of tool related abilities.

Project leader: Alice Auersperg

Project participants: Mark O’Hara (Technician), Andreas Auersperg (Technican), upcoming

Running time: April 2016-March2019

Funded by: FWF the Austrian Science Fund.