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Krasheninnikova, Anastasia; Hoener, Friederike; O'Neill, Laurie; Penna, Elisabetta and Bayern, Auguste M. P. von (2018): Economic Decision-Making in Parrots. In: Scientific Reports, Vol. 8, 12537 [PDF, 1MB]


Economic decision-making involves weighing up differently beneficial alternatives to maximise payoff. This sometimes requires the ability to forego one's desire for immediate satisfaction. This ability is considered cognitively challenging because it not only requires inhibiting impulses, but also evaluating expected outcomes in order to decide whether waiting is worthwhile. We tested four parrot species in a token exchange task. The subjects were first trained to exchange three types of tokens for a food item of low, medium, and high value and successfully learned to exchange these in an order according to their value. Subsequently, they were confronted with a choice between a food item and a token that could be exchanged for higher-quality food. In additional control conditions however, choosing a token led to an equal or lower payoff. Individuals of all species were capable of deciding economically, yet only large macaws outperformed the other species in one of the crucial controls. For some individuals, particularly African grey parrots, the token apparently had an intrinsic value, which prevented them from choosing economically in some control conditions and which should be considered as potentially confounding by future token exchange studies.

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