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Average bear could be pretty smart

Computer tests of solitary species reveal animals’ ability to learn concepts

By
10:33am, August 24, 2012

American black bears that take computerized tests by pawing, nose-bumping or licking a touch screen may rival great apes when it comes to learning concepts.

Using three zoo bear siblings as classroom subjects, comparative cognitive psychologist Jennifer Vonk of Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., and her colleagues presented pairs of pictures to the bears on a rugged computer screen and gave them food treats for pawing the image from a certain category. To demonstrate learning a concept, bears had to figure out what kind of picture would earn a treat and then pick that kind of image from a new set.

One challenge, picking the portrait of a black bear instead of an image of a person, could be mastered by relying on a mix of visual clues such a

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