African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) use inference by exclusion to find hidden food

  • Mikolasch S
  • Kotrschal K
  • Schloegl C
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Exclusion allows the detection of hidden food when confronted with the choice between an empty and a potentially baited food location. However, exclusion may be based on avoidance of the empty location without drawing inferences about the presence of the food in the baited location. So far, such inferences have been demonstrated in the great apes only: after seeing an experimenter eating one of two food types, which both had been hidden previously in two boxes, the apes were able to choose the box that still contained the other food type. African grey parrots are capable of exclusion, and we here assessed if they are capable of inference by exclusion. In our task, two different but equally preferred food items were hidden in full view of the birds under two opaque cups. Then, an experimenter secretly removed one food type and showed it to the bird. Similarly to the apes, one out of seven parrots significantly preferred the baited cup; control conditions rule out that its choice was based on associative learning or the use of olfactory cues. Thus, we conclude that-like the apes-some grey parrots are able to infer the location of a hidden food reward.

Author-supplied keywords

  • African grey parrots
  • Inference by exclusion
  • Reasoning

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  • Sandra Mikolasch

  • Kurt Kotrschal

  • Christian Schloegl

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