A raven is seen at the Tower of London, Oct. 20, 2005.
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Melissa Chan
June 8, 2017

Ravens remember people who have wronged them, a new study has found.

The black birds, which have been depicted in Hollywood and literature as bad omens, can recognize the faces of people who have treated them unfairly and tend to avoid those people for at least a month, according to a study recently published in the journal Animal Behaviour.

Researchers in Austria conducted behavior tests on nine captivity-bred ravens and found that ravens were more likely to work with people who have not cheated them. Under an established exchange system, the birds were given bread and were allowed to swap the piece of bread with experimenters for cheese. Some of the experimenters gave the ravens cheese for the bread, while others ate the cheese in front of the birds after they had given up the bread.

That led ravens in later experiments to choose to trade with the reliable and “fair” researcher who had not betrayed them over experimenters who ate the cheese.

The researchers say the study shows ravens “possess an array of sophisticated cognitive mechanisms involved in memory.”

“Our results show that ravens can remember, after a single interaction sequence, who is worth cooperating with in the future,” the study said.

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