Document Type

Article

Publication Date

3-2013

Abstract

Demonstrations of nonhuman ability to share resources and reciprocate such sharing seem contingent upon the experimental paradigm used (note Horner et al. in PNAS 108:13847–13851, 2011). Here, such behaviour in Grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) was tested in two experiments, both designed to avoid possible issues involving apparatus complexity, visible reward options, and physical competition and/or limited communication between subjects. In both studies, two birds, working in dyads, took turns in choosing one of four different coloured cups with differing outcomes: empty (null, nonrewarding), selfish (keeping reward for oneself), share (sharing a divisible reward), or giving (donating reward to other). In Experiment 1, each bird alternated choices with a conspecific; in Experiment 2, each bird alternated with the three humans with different specific intentions (selfish, giving, or copying bird’s behaviour). In both experiments, birds could learn to cooperatively reward a partner at little cost to themselves—by sharing—and potentially maximize overall reward by reciprocating such sharing. Experiment 1 results differed depending upon which bird began a session: Only our dominant bird, as follower, was willing to share. In Experiment 2, birds’ responses tended towards consistency with human behaviour. Our dominant bird was willing to share a reward with a human who was willing to give up her reward, was selfish with the selfish human, and tended towards sharing with the copycat human; our subordinate bird tended slightly towards increased sharing with the generous human and selfishness with the selfish human, but did not change behaviour with the copycat.

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