Think Drawing Conclusions Is Just A Human Trait? Cockatoos Do It Too!

A study by the University of Vienna shows Goffin? cockatoos can infer by exclusion.

Goffin? cockatoos proved they know how to draw conclusions.
Photo via PLOS ONE
Goffin? cockatoos proved they know how to draw conclusions.

While tutoring a high school student in SAT English, I told him if you don? know the answer, infer by exclusion. After explaining what that meant, I gave him a practice test. I saw him reading the questions and crossing out the answers that didn? fit until he was left with the one that answered the question the best. In other words, by eliminating the A, C and D answers, he drew the conclusion that answer B was the right one.

As humans, we draw conclusions all the time. If there? traffic on our way to work we may draw the conclusion that there? an accident up ahead. When we pass by it, we know we?e right. As it turns out, Goffin? cockatoos have the same reasoning skills.

Mark O?ara, doctoral candidate at the University of Vienna, and his colleagues Alice M. I. Auersperg, Thomas Bugnyar and Ludwig Huber wondered if the intelligent bird that is smart enough to unlock its cage doors was also capable of acting on the exclusion principle, IFL Science reports. The team trained 12 Goffin? to “associate a picture with a food reward that would automatically be delivered in a tray after they touched the image on the touchscreen.?If the bird touched the other picture (which at times was something novel), no reward was given. After the birds were able to consistently choose the reward picture rather than choosing one simply out of curiosity, they were given the inference test.

The inference tests consisted of showing the cockatoos combinations of known and novel photos. These pictures could be rewarded or unrewarded.

“More than half of our cockatoos choose their pictures in a way that clearly indicates the ability of infer by exclusion about rewarded stimuli. However alternative strategies also play an important role in guided their choices,?O’Hara told EurekAlert. “Considering the cockatoos?capacities in previous tasks we actually expected that they would show inferences by exclusion, but this was the first test if we could detect this ability with our new task. That we could show this sort of reasoning, together with other strategies so nicely, lets us hope that the method will be applicable to many species and ultimately might help us to understand something about the evolution of this ability.?lt;/span>

The complete study was published in PLOS ONE earlier this month.

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