Studies have demonstrated that crows can learn to recognize human faces, and hold onto that memory (and sometimes a grudge) for a long time. Researchers from the University of Washington wanted to go deeper and understand how they do so at the level of the brain. They were interested to find out whether crows recognized faces using the same neural processes as humans, or in another way with which we were not yet familiar.
To find out, the researchers captured twelve wild American crows while wearing a particular mask of a human face. For four weeks following their capture, they fed and cared for the crows while wearing adifferent mask. The idea was to see if the birds would recognize one face (mask) as the “threatening” one that captured them, and the other face as the “caring” one that brought them delicious food.