, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 937-944
Date: 29 Jan 2014

Human–Grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus) reciprocity: a follow-up study

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In a previous study (Péron et al. in Anim Cogn, doi:10.1007/s10071-012.05640, 2012), Grey parrots, working in dyads, took turns choosing one of four differently coloured cups with differing outcomes: empty (null, non-rewarding), selfish (keeping reward for oneself), share (sharing a divisible reward), or giving (donating reward to other). When the dyads involved three humans with different specific intentions (selfish, giving, or copying the bird’s behaviour), birds’ responses only 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 clearly mirror the behaviour of the copycat. We theorized that the birds’ inability to understand the copycat condition fully—that they could potentially maximize reward by choosing to share—was a consequence of their viewing the copycat’s behaviour as erratic compared with the consistently selfish or giving humans and thus not realizing that they were indeed being mirrored. We suggested that copycat trials subsequently be performed as a separate experiment, without being contrasted with trials in which humans acted consistently, in order to determine if results might have differed. We have now performed that experiment, and shown that at least one Grey parrot—our dominant—responded in a manner suggesting that he deduced the appropriate contingencies.