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Pigeons gamble like people | Bird•B•Gone Blog

Pigeons gamble like people

From MSNBC:

New study finds birds feed in a way similar to gambling behavior

By Stephanie Pappas

If you had a choice, would you press a button that gave you an evenly spaced $3 per push, or would you choose the button with the big, but rare, payoff of $10 — even if that meant you got only $2 per push on average?

The answer may seem obvious, but anyone who gambles gives up a sure bet of money in their pocket in hopes of a big, unlikely win. Now, a new study finds that pigeons make similar bad choices.

The research, published Oct. 13 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that pigeons given the choice to peck a light that would give them three food pellets each time almost universally preferred a light that would give them a payout of 10 pellets 20 percent of the time. Averaged out, that meant pigeons were choosing to get two pellets per peck instead of three.

The reason could be that pigeons are motivated by a surprising change from their expectations, according to study author Thomas Zentall, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky. The same phenomenon could explain why human gamblers ignore their losses and focus on their rarer, but more surprising, wins.

Read the complete article here

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