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Question 21 of 24

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SAT

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PSAT/NMSQT

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PSAT 10

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Information and Ideas

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Science

Passage Content

Questions 20–24 are based on the following passages.

Passage 1 is adapted from Susan Milius, “A Different Kind of Smart.” ©2013 by Science News. Passage 2 is adapted from Bernd Heinrich, Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds. ©2007 by Bernd Heinrich.

Passage 1

In 1894, British psychologist C. Lloyd Morgan published what’s called Morgan’s canon, the principle that suggestions of humanlike mental processes behind an animal’s behavior should be rejected if a simpler explanation will do.

Still, people seem to maintain certain expectations, especially when it comes to birds and mammals. “We somehow want to prove they are as ‘smart’ as people,” zoologist Sara Shettleworth says. We want a bird that masters a vexing problem to be employing human-style insight.

New Caledonian crows face the high end of these expectations, as possibly the second-best toolmakers on the planet.

Their tools are hooked sticks or strips made from spike-edged leaves, and they use them in the wild to winkle grubs out of crevices. Researcher Russell Gray first saw the process on a cold morning in a mountain forest in New Caledonia, an island chain east of Australia. Over the course of days, he and crow researcher Gavin Hunt had gotten wild crows used to finding meat tidbits in holes in a log.Once the birds were checking the log reliably, the researchers placed a spiky tropical pandanus plant beside the log and hid behind a blind.

A crow arrived. It hopped onto the pandanus plant, grabbed the spiked edge of one of the long straplike leaves and began a series of ripping motions. Instead of just tearing away one long strip, the bird ripped and nipped in a sequence to create a slanting stair-step edge on a leaf segment with a narrow point and a wide base. The process took only seconds. Then the bird dipped the narrow end of its leaf strip into a hole in the log, fished up the meat with the leaf-edge spikes, swallowed its prize and flew off.

That was my ‘oh wow’ moment,” Gray says. After the crow had vanished, he picked up the tool the bird had left behind. “I had a go, and I couldn’t do it,” he recalls. Fishing the meat out was tricky. It turned out that Gray was moving the leaf shard too forcefully instead of gently stroking the spines against the treat.

The crow’s deft physical manipulation was what inspired Gray and Auckland colleague Alex Taylor to test other wild crows to see if they employed the seemingly insightful string-pulling solutions that some ravens, kea parrots and other brainiac birds are known to employ. Three of four crows passed that test on the first try.

Yes

Passage 2

For one month after they left the nest, I led my four young ravens at least once and sometimes several times a day on thirty-minute walks. During these walks, I wrote down everything in their environment they pecked at. In the first sessions, I tried to be teacher. I touched specific objects—sticks, moss, rocks—and nothing that I touched remained untouched by them. They came to investigate what I had investigated, leading me to assume that young birds are aided in learning to identify food from the parents’ example. They also, however, contacted almost everything else that lay directly in their own paths. They soon became more independent by taking their own routes near mine. Even while walking along on their own, they pulled at leaves, grass stems, flowers, bark, pine needles, seeds, cones, clods of earth, and other objects they encountered. I wrote all this down, converting it to numbers. After they were thoroughly familiar with the background objects in these woods and started to ignore them, I seeded the path we would later walk together with objects they had never before encountered. Some of these were conspicuous food items: raspberries, dead meal worm beetles, and cooked corn kernels. Others were conspicuous and inedible: pebbles, glass chips, red winterberries. Still others were such highly cryptic foods as encased caddisfly larvae and moth cocoons. The results were dramatic.

The four young birds on our daily walks contacted all new objects preferentially. They picked them out at a rate of up to tens of thousands of times greater than background or previously contacted objects. The main initial criterion for pecking or picking anything up was its novelty. In subsequent trials, when the previously novel items were edible, they became preferred and the inedible objects became “background” items, just like the leaves, grass, and pebbles, even if they were highly conspicuous. These experiments showed that ravens’ curiosity ensures exposure to all or almost all items in the environment.

Yes

Select an Answer

According to the experiment described in Passage 2, whether the author’s ravens continued to show interest in a formerly new object was dictated primarily by whether that object was

edible.

Correct Answer: 
Yes

plentiful.

Correct Answer: 
No

conspicuous.

Correct Answer: 
No

natural.

Correct Answer: 
No

View Correct Answer

Choice A is the best answer. The last paragraph of Passage 2 presents the results of an experiment in which the author scattered unfamiliar objects in the path of some ravens. According to the passage, the birds initially “contacted all new objects preferentially” but in “subsequent trials” only preferred those “previously novel items” that “were edible” (Passage 2, lines 38-41).

Choice B is not the best answer because the ravens studied by the author only preferred those “previously novel items” that “were edible,” whereas “the inedible objects became ‘background’ items, just like the leaves, grass, and pebbles” (Passage 2, lines 38-41). In other words, plentiful items did not continue to interest the ravens unless the items were edible.

Choice C is not the best answer because the ravens studied by the author only preferred those “previously novel items” that “were edible,” whereas “the inedible objects became ‘background’ items, just like the leaves, grass, and pebbles, even if they were highly conspicuous” (Passage 2, lines 38-41). In other words, conspicuous items did not continue to interest the ravens unless the items were edible.

Choice D is not the best answer because the ravens studied by the author only preferred those “previously novel items” that “were edible,” whereas “the inedible objects became ‘background’ items, just like the leaves, grass, and pebbles” (Passage 2, lines 38-41). In other words, natural items did not continue to interest the ravens unless the items were edible.

Question Difficulty: 
easy
Passage Complexity: 
medium
Objective: 

Students must identify an explicitly stated relationship between events.