Re: testing memetics

Robert G. Grimes (
Fri, 12 Dec 1997 17:29:39 -0500

Date: Fri, 12 Dec 1997 17:29:39 -0500
From: "Robert G. Grimes" <>
Subject: Re: testing memetics

Ton Maas wrote:

Bob Grimes wrote (and now corrects the spelling of the crow family .....)

> > The jackdaw (Eurasian crow) is a member of the Corvidae, jays, crows,
> >etc., some of the most intelligent of the birds.

Ton Maas wrote in reply:

> In his "Mind & Nature; a necessary unity" Gregory Bateson devotes some
> attention to jackdaws and their ability to count, referring to research
> done by the early gestalt psychologists like Otto Koehler, dealing with the
> question whether these birds can really "count" or perceive and remember
> certain patterns. It was established that they really can count - jackdaws
> actually up to seven - by presenting them with intermittent amounts of
> objects (where the desired quantity was stored in two or three separate &
> closed containers and the birds had to remove one lid after another, so
> they could not perceive the whole amount in one glance). A friend of mine
> who is an avid field ornithologist, tells me magpies (related too) even do
> better. To fool them into believing there's nobody left in the observation
> hut, at least twelve people have to enter and eleven leave, otherwise the
> birds know one person still remains, indicating an ability to count up to
> eleven.


What is this about "like minds?" I just recently sent a post to another board
with the same subject but with different numbers!

This was the message sent on 11/27/97


You reminded me of an experiment that I have heard of all of my life and which

I remember trying as a very young man when visiting my Uncle on his ranch in
Texas. I had a .22 rifle with which I hunted and there was a crow down by the
barn that I was trying to shoot. I took the rifle and went into a tiny room
attached to the barn (a tack room) and waited for the crow to return as he had
flown on my arrival. He didn't return. Finally, I returned to the ranch house

and the crow came back immediately. Then my Uncle told me that crows could
count to three! The crow had seen me enter and had seen me leave, thus, he
knew it was "safe." So, to test the theory (I had already tried to hide there
several times only to have him return after I left, each time) I took three
others with me to the barn. This time the three who went with me left after
the crow had flown, leaving me in there alone. Sure enough, the crow returned,

apparently thinking that the three people were the total who had gone in.
There he was, smart thing, redolent in his purple black feathers, sparkling in
the sun. I decided that it would be too cruel to kill an animal who was so
intelligent that I had to resort to "higher math" to entrap. Thus, I left him
on his own (he was quite surprised to see me come out of the little room) to
live a long and happy life. As I now recall, we had experimented by first one
leaving, then two, then three, etc., until the crow finally returned.

Now I remember this story very well; however, stories like this also have
something similar to an "urban legend" about them (only in this case it would
be "rural legend"), so I wouldn't swear that my memory is accurate, even though

I clearly remember the events. Such is the nature of "time binding" and the
distortion and change that occurs with memory after being affected in ones
cognitive milieu! I will not know if this is true or not, even if my
experiential memory tells me that it is so...

After writing this last message about the jackdaw my old memory keeps telling
me that this latter bird was really a Great Tit, rather than a jackdaw, but I
cannot be sure until I try researching it again...

I thought you might appreciate the coincidence (even if the numbers were
different). I had also just written another letter about the Magpie, a bird
which I admire greatly... Perhaps I had better connect with Barron Burrow or
Robert Jahn and find out if I have accidentally discovered something about



Bob Grimes Jacksonville, Florida

Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore....."

=============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see: