The successful birds did not just imitate Figaro's movements: their tool-use techniques were themselves new. While Figaro held tools by their tips, inserted them through the cage grid at different heights and raked the nuts towards him while adjusting the tool's position as the target moved closer, the successful observers laid the sticks on the ground and propelled the nuts into their reach by a quick ballistic flipping movement. The latter technique was arguably more efficient for the test circumstances, which differed from those in which Figaro had made his first discovery; the pupils in this sense surpassed the teacher's performance. "Although watching Figaro with the tool was necessary for their success they did not imitate his exact motor activities. Successful observers seemed to attend to the result of Figaro's interaction with the tool but developed their own strategies for reaching the same result, rather than copying his actions. This is typical of what psychologists would call emulation learning" explains Dr. Alice Auersperg who led the study at the Goffin Lab at the University of Vienna.
Two of the successful observers were later tested in the absence of ready-made tools, but offering them suitable tool-making material. One of them spontaneously started to make his own tools out of a wooden block, while the other initially failed, but then did so after a single demonstration session watching Figaro carve tools out of a block. "While this is not yet fully conclusive, it might indicate that learning to use tools may per se stimulate the acquisition of tool-making in the Goffins" adds Dr. Auersperg.
Prof. Alex Kacelnik from the University of Oxford is particularly interested in the differences between the behaviour of demonstrator and observers: "There is a substantial difference between repeating a teacher's behaviour and emulating his or her achievements while creating one's own methods. The latter implies a creative proce
|Contact: Alice Auersperg|
University of Vienna