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Doing business with a parrot
Date:3/13/2013

by the birds and would under normal circumstances be consumed straight away, we found that all 14 of birds waited for food of higher quality, such as cashew nut for up to 80 seconds", she further reports.

Evolution of self-control

Alice Auersperg, the manager of the Vienna Goffin Lab says: "When exchanging for better qualities, the Goffins acted astonishingly like economic agents, flexibly trading-off between immediate and future benefits. They did so, relative not only to the length of delay, but also to the difference in trade value between the 'currency' and the 'merchandise': they tended to trade their initial items more often for their most preferred food, than for one of intermediate preference value and did not exchange in a control test in which the value of the initial item was higher than that of the expected one". She adds: "While human infants or primates can hold the initial food in their hands, one should also consider that the birds were able to wait, although they had to hold the food in their beaks, directly against their taste organs while waiting. Imagine placing a cookie directly into a toddler's mouth and telling him/her, he/she will only receive a piece of chocolate if the cookie is not nibbled for over a minute".

Thomas Bugnyar, who previously conducted similar studies on ravens and crows, says "Until recently, birds were considered to lack any self-control. When we found that corvids could wait for delayed food, we speculated which socio-ecological conditions could favor the evolution of such skills. To test our ideas we needed clever birds that are distantly related to corvids. Parrots were the obvious choice and the results on Goffins show that we are on the right track".


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Contact: Alice Auersperg
alice.auersperg@univie.ac.at
43-142-777-6101
University of Vienna
Source:Eurekalert  

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