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Investigating kea’s fidelity when imitating motor actions demonstrated by conspecifics

Animals learning socially from one another is a well-known phenomenon. Nonetheless, the high fidelity imitation of motor actions seen in humans from a young age onward is rare, and when not directed at a physical goal, virtually non-existent. Previous studies have generally relied on human demonstrators, to ensure reliable demonstration. This may hinder a subjects’ ability to copy any demonstrated action with high fidelity, as anatomical differences could present a hurdle to imitate precisely. In this project we investigate the kea’s ability to imitate actions demonstrated by a conspecific.


Hidden properties: The kea’s understanding of weight

Kea are well-known for their sophisticated and innovative problem-solving abilities, however our tasks to date have focused primarily on their use of visual information, and we know much less about their understanding of invisible properties such as weight. This project presents kea with a battery of studies to address three overarching questions:

  1. Can kea attribute weight to objects they are not directly interacting with?
  2. What visual or causal cues do kea use to infer the weight of novel objects?
  3. Can kea use information about weight flexibly to solve different physical problems?

Kea curiosity: Causes, contexts and consequences

Curiosity plays an important role in animal behavior and cognition, but has remained relatively understudied. This new Stand-Alone project investigates curiosity in kea (a bird well known for its inquisitive nature), focusing on: (i) the contexts in which curiosity occurs, (ii) what triggers curiosity, (iii) what the function of curiosity is, and (iv) how different pieces of information are gathered and used. Through collaborations, the project will also feature comparative research with other bird species, as well as primates