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J Comp Psychol. 2013 Aug;127(3):272-81. doi: 10.1037/a0031641. Epub 2013 Feb 18.

Reasoning by inference: further studies on exclusion in grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus).

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Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus) abilities for visual inferential reasoning by exclusion were tested in two experiments. The first replicated the Grey parrot study of Mikolasch, Kotrschal, and Schloegl (2011, African Grey Parrots (Psittacus erithacus) use inference by exclusion to find hidden food. Biology Letters, 7, 875-877), which in turn replicated that of Premack and Premck (1994, Levels of causal understanding in chimpanzees and children. Cognition, 50, 347-362) with apes, to learn if our subjects could succeed on this task. Here parrots watched an experimenter hide two equally desirable foods under two separate opaque cups, surreptitiously remove and then, in view of the birds, pocket/eat one of the foods, leaving birds to find the still baited cup. The experiment contained controls for various alternative explanations for the birds' behavior, but birds might still have avoided a cup from which something had been removed rather than specifically tracking the eaten food. Thus, in the second experiment, some trials were run with one food slightly more preferred than the other, during which two items of each type were hidden and only one of the items were removed from one cup. Sessions also included Experiment 1-type trials to see if birds tracked when and when not to use exclusion. Thus, birds would be rewarded for attending closely to all the experimental aspects needed to infer how to receive their preferred treat. Three of four birds succeeded fully.

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