Raccoon 22’s Cognition

“To evaluate the universal effectiveness of the Aesop’s Fable paradigm, we applied this paradigm to a previously untested taxon, the raccoon (Procyon lotor). We first trained captive raccoons to drop stones into a tube of water to retrieve a floating food reward. Next, we presented successful raccoons with objects that differed in the amount of water they displaced to determine whether raccoons could select the most functional option. Raccoons performed differently than corvids and human children did in previous studies of Aesop’s Fable, and we found raccoons to be innovative in many aspects of this task. We suggest that raccoon performance in this paradigm reflected differences in tangential factors, such as behavior, morphology, and testing procedures, rather than cognitive deficiencies…

…Online Resource 5: Video footage from Raccoon 22’s fourth final trial. Here we see that she is able to overturn the entire apparatus by rocking her body backwards while pulling on the rim of the tube. We designed the apparatus to be freestanding so that the raccoons could approach and explore the apparatus from all sides. Thus, we made the base of the apparatus smooth, lacking any raised edges, and heavy (11.3 kg) so that the raccoons would not be able to grip or lift the base. Despite these precautions, Raccoon 22 was able to overturn it and retrieve the reward.”

—Lauren Stanton, et al. “Adaptation of the Aesop’s Fable paradigm for use with raccoons (Procyon lotor): considerations for future application in non-avian and non-primate species.” Animal Cognition. November 2017.

Sometimes, researchers test the cognitive abilities of members of the taxon. Sometimes, members of the taxon test the cognitive abilities of the researchers.

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