, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 545-553

Cooperative problem solving in African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus)

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Abstract

One of the main characteristics of human societies is the extensive degree of cooperation among individuals. Cooperation is an elaborate phenomenon, also found in non-human primates during laboratory studies and field observations of animal hunting behaviour, among other things. Some authors suggest that the pressures assumed to have favoured the emergence of social intelligence in primates are similar to those that may have permitted the emergence of complex cognitive abilities in some bird species such as corvids and psittacids. In the wild, parrots show cooperative behaviours such as bi-parental care and mobbing. In this study, we tested cooperative problem solving in African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus). Our birds were tested using several experimental setups to explore the different levels of behavioural organisation between participants, differing in temporal and spatial complexity. In our experiments, African grey parrots were able to act simultaneously but mostly failed during the delay task, maybe because of a lack of inhibitory motor response. Confronted with the possibility to adapt their behaviour to the presence or absence of a partner, they showed that they were able to coordinate their actions. They also collaborated, acting complementarily in order to solve tasks, but they were not able to place themselves in the partner’s role.