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Pigeons Gamble the Same Way People Do, According to Study

"Who YOU callin' a gambler?"


Today in being afraid of pigeons and their little-known-yet-remarkable capacity for intelligence, turns out that their risk assessment skills are on par with that of humans. Mark my words, one day they will realize that they can do better than pooping on our statues and turn on us.

This most recent exploration into pigeon brains comes to us from the University of Warwick’s Ed Ludvig, who sought to explore the behavioral economics of pigeons precisely for the reason that unlike humans, they aren’t capable of explaining their decisions. Researchers created testing areas that each held two colored doors, and food was dispensed to the pigeons after they passed through one of their doors. Each color corresponded to a particular amount of food—orange and yellow doors meant a stable amount of food (either 3 cups or 1, respectively), and purple and green doors corresponded to a gamble (between 4 to 2 cups, or 2 to 0 cups). Human subjects were also given the same test, but with computer screens and arbitrary points instead of doors and food; however, like the pigeons, they were expected to figure out the pattern on their own without any rules or guidelines to help them.

The result? Both the humans and pigeons ended up behaving exactly the same way by the end of the experiment: when it came to higher-yield situations, both chose to gamble on higher-yield doors about 35% more than they did on the lower-yield. Even weirder, this differs from commonly held notions of risk averse human behavior, which previously suggested that we’re much, much more likely to pick the stable option over a possibly larger but uncertain opinion.

Ludvig believes this type of risk assessment to be an inherent trait in many kinds of animals, but that modern humans end up thinking themselves out of riskier decisions. “We think that a lot of human choice is driven by basic biases about how people perceive and remember risks and rewards, which we share with many other species,” he said in a statement.

Hear, that, readers? Pigeons have all of our gambling skills without any of the hangups or cognitive dissonance that come with language and other higher forms of logical thought. Really, it’s probably only a matter of time before they combine their efforts into a single pigeon consciousness and get revenge on us for driving their passenger pigeon brethren into extinction a hundred years ago. Better start preparing yourselves now by learning how to coo deferentially.

(via Discover Magazine)

Previously in Goodfeathers

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