Are you better than me? Social comparisons in carrion crows (Corvus corone)

Federspiel, I G, Schmitt, V, Schuster, R, Rockenbach, C, Braun, A, Loretto, M-C, Michels, C, Fischer, J, Mussweiler, T M and Bugnyar, T (2023) Are you better than me? Social comparisons in carrion crows (Corvus corone). Animal Cognition, 26. pp. 1353-1368. ISSN 1435-9448


Comparing oneself to others is a key process in humans that allows individuals to gauge their performances and abilities and thus develop and calibrate their self-image. Little is known about its evolutionary foundations. A key feature of social comparison is the sensitivity to other individuals’ performance. Recent studies on primates produced equivocal results, leading us to distinguish between a ‘strong’ variant of the social comparison hypothesis formulated for humans and a ‘weak’ variant found in non-human primates that would comprise some elements of human social comparison. Here, we focus on corvids that are distantly related to primates and renowned for their socio-cognitive skills. We were interested in whether crows’ task performances were influenced i) by the presence of a conspecific co-actor performing the same discrimination task and ii) by the simulated acoustic cues of a putative co-actor performing better or worse than themselves. Crows reached a learning criterion quicker when tested simultaneously as compared to when tested alone, indicating a facilitating effect of social context. The performance of a putative co-actor influenced their performance: crows were better at discriminating familiar images when their co-actor was better than they were. Standard extremity (how pronounced the difference was between the performance of the subject and that of the co-actor), and category membership (affiliation status and sex), of the putative co-actors had no effect on their performance. Our findings are in line with the ‘weak’ variant of social comparison and indicate that elements of human social comparison can be found outside of primates.

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Item Type: Article
Subject Areas: Organisational Behaviour
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This version of the article has been accepted for publication, after peer review (when applicable) and is subject to Springer Nature’s AM terms of use, but is not the Version of Record and does not reflect post-acceptance improvements, or any corrections. The Version of Record is available online at:[insert DOI]

Funder Name: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Austrian Science Fund, Verein der Foerder KLF, Leibniz Price
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2023 10:11
Date of first compliant deposit: 26 Jun 2023
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2024 13:10

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