New Zealand’s cheeky mountain parrots, the kea, are smarter than previously thought, behaving the same way humans do when judging statistical odds, according to a study from the University of Auckland.
“The results from the study are surprising as they mirror those from infants and chimpanzees in similar tests,” PhD candidate Amalia Bastos said of the study published in Nature Communications on Wednesday.
For the experiment, six keas were first shown that picking a black token meant they would receive a treat, while picking an orange token didn’t.
Then they were shown two jars of mixed tokens: one with more black ones, and one with more orange tokens. When a ranger offered a hidden token, the birds consistently chose the hand that had reached into the jar with the greatest number of black tokens.
The keas were also tested on their ability to incorporate social information, learning which of their rangers was more likely to pick a black token.
Associate Professor Alex Taylor said that to date, only humans and chimpanzees have been shown to integrate social and frequency information this way.
“One of the holy grails of research on artificial intelligence is the type of common-sense reasoning that humans show, where we bring together multiple sources of information into a single prediction or judgement about what will happen next in the world,” he said.
The study suggested that aspects of this ability have likely evolved twice on our planet, in primates and birds and it could be useful for AI researchers to look to the avian brain for inspiration. — dpa