Grey parrots use inferential reasoning based on acoustic cues alone

Christian Schloegl, Judith Schmidt, Markus Boeckle, Brigitte M. Weiß, Kurt Kotrschal

Abstract

Our ability to make logical inferences is considered as one of the cornerstones of human intelligence, fuelling investigations of reasoning abilities in non-human animals. Yet, the evidence to date is equivocal, with apes as the prime candidates to possess these skills. For instance, in a two-choice task, apes can identify the location of hidden food if it is indicated by a rattling noise caused by the shaking of a baited container. More importantly, they also use the absence of noise during the shaking of the empty container to infer that this container is not baited. However, since the inaugural report of apes solving this task, to the best of our knowledge, no comparable evidence could be found in any other tested species such as monkeys and dogs. Here, we report the first successful and instantaneous solution of the shaking task through logical inference by a non-ape species, the African grey parrot. Surprisingly, the performance of the birds was sensitive to the shaking movement: they were successful with containers shaken horizontally, but not with vertical shaking resembling parrot head-bobbing. Thus, grey parrots seem to possess ape-like cross-modal reasoning skills, but their reliance on these abilities is influenced by low-level interferences.

Footnotes

    • Received June 5, 2012.
    • Accepted July 17, 2012.
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