Date of Submission

Spring 2011

Academic Program

Multidisciplinary Studies


Philip Johns

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Folk physics is the study of a species’ common sense understanding of the physical world, and the ability to understand physical causality and means-ends relationships between objects is called causal reasoning. However, not all species’ folk physics includes causal reasoning. Keas are a species of alpine parrot from New Zealand known for their intelligence and curiosity. Previous studies have shown that keas are very good at problem solving, but whether or not they use causal reasoning is not clear. In my study, I directly investigated whether or not keas use causal reasoning to solve problems. Subjects were presented with various puzzles consisting of vertical plastic tubes with one or two blocks inside. The subjects were required to remove or manipulate these blocks to get food rewards to fall to the bottom of the tube, where they can be reached. One version of the task used opaque tubes, preventing causal reasoning and allowing for only trial-and-error-learning. The other version used transparent tubes, allowing for the use of causal reasoning. I found that subjects solved both versions equally fast over the course of 10 or more trials, suggesting that they are not using causal reasoning and instead are very good trial-and-error learners.

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