Thursday, March 14, 2013

Parrots Barter With Nuts

In studies from the 1970s, kids were presented with a marshmallow and were told that they could either eat it now, or wait and receive a second one if they could hold out for a time delay of some minutes....For the new study, Alice Auersperg of the University of Vienna’s Department of Cognitive Biology and colleagues presented an Indonesian cockatoo species, the Goffin’s cockatoo, with food snack options. The best of that bunch, from the bird’s perspective, were pecan nuts. Mirroring the kid-marshmallow experiment, the researchers next offered the birds an even better deal. If the birds did not eat the pecan, they could trade it for a cashew....“When exchanging for better qualities, the Goffins acted astonishingly like economic agents, flexibly trading-off between immediate and future benefits,” Auersperg said in a press release. “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.” more

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