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Parrots make complex economic decisions to maximise rewards

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Parrots are capable of making economic decisions to receive greater rewards, according to a new study from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. This ability is considered cognitively complex and could shed some light on how parrots in the wild make decisions about how they interact with their environment.

Economic decision-making involves weighing up differently beneficial alternatives to maximise payoff. This sometimes requires foregoing one’s desire for immediate rewards.

This ability to delay gratification and make the correct economic decision is considered cognitively challenging because it requires not only controlling one’s impulses, but also assessing the value of different options to decide whether waiting is worthwhile. Now, a team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology has been investigating whether parrots can make economic decisions, too.

The birds were initially taught how to trade three different types of token for food of either low, medium or high value. Subsequently, they were given the choice between an instant food reward and one of the tokens. The parrots only rejected the immediate reward and chose the token if the token’s value corresponded to higher quality food, demonstrating an ability to inhibit their immediate impulses for greater reward in the future.

These results show that parrots are...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.