Are parrots naive realists? Kea behave as if the real and virtual worlds are continuous

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Human psychology and animal cognition have increasingly used virtual stimuli to test cognitive abilities, with the expectation that participants are 'naive realists', that is, that they perceive virtual environments as both equivalent and continuous with real-life equivalents. However, there have been no attempts to investigate whether nonhuman subjects in fact behave as if physical processes in the virtual and real worlds are continuous. As kea parrots have previously shown the ability to transfer knowledge between real stimuli and both images on paper and images on touchscreens, here we test whether kea behave as naive realists and so expect physical processes to be continuous between the physical and virtual worlds. We find that, unlike infants, kea do not discriminate between these two contexts, and that they do not exhibit a preference for either. Our findings therefore validate the use of virtual stimuli as a powerful tool for testing the cognition of nonhuman animal species.




Bastos, A. P. M., Wood, P. M., & Taylor, A. H. (2021). Are parrots naive realists? Kea behave as if the real and virtual worlds are continuous. Biology Letters, 17(9).

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