Mar 28 2013
If you knew you’d get better food than what you already have if you just waited, would you wait?
Alice Auersperg and her team at the University of Vienna’s Department of Cognitive Biology tested 13 Goffin cockatoos (Cacatua goffini) to see if they would refrain from eating a lesser quality food if they knew a better one was coming. Until this experiment, only primates and corvids had shown this level of self control.
In the video Muffin is shown two nuts and offered a less preferred pecan. He takes the pecan but can see a yummy cashew waiting out of reach on the researcher’s left hand. If he waits and returns the pecan, he’ll get the cashew.
So he waits. Even though he can smell and taste the pecan he holds in his beak, he merely rearranges it and paces to take up the time.
Eventually the researcher offers him her empty right hand. He returns the pecan and gets the cashew.
In the 1970’s this level of self restraint shown by children in a test using marshmallows was ultimately correlated to greater success in life. Those who can delay gratification will go far.
Of course parrots can wait.
(video on You Tube from the University of Vienna)