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A study of sharing and reciprocity in grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus)

Abstract

Demonstrations of nonhuman ability to share resources and reciprocate such sharing seem contingent upon the experimental paradigm used (note Horner et al. in PNAS 108:13847–13851, 2011). Here, such behaviour in Grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) was tested in two experiments, both designed to avoid possible issues involving apparatus complexity, visible reward options, and physical competition and/or limited communication between subjects. In both studies, two birds, working in dyads, took turns in choosing one of four different coloured cups with differing outcomes: empty (null, nonrewarding), selfish (keeping reward for oneself), share (sharing a divisible reward), or giving (donating reward to other). In Experiment 1, each bird alternated choices with a conspecific; in Experiment 2, each bird alternated with the three humans with different specific intentions (selfish, giving, or copying bird’s behaviour). In both experiments, birds could learn to cooperatively reward a partner at little cost to themselves—by sharing—and potentially maximize overall reward by reciprocating such sharing. Experiment 1 results differed depending upon which bird began a session: Only our dominant bird, as follower, was willing to share. In Experiment 2, birds’ responses 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 change behaviour with the copycat.

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Acknowledgments

Péron was financially supported by the grant of Aires Culturelles 09 of the University of Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, the Dufrenoy foundation and the ED 139. This experiment was designed within the framework of the ‘Integrating Cooperation Research Across Europe’ project and the PReCog (Parrot Research group on Cognition) project. Pepperberg and Sapowicz were supported in part by donors to The Alex Foundation (particularly the Marc Haas Foundation, the Pearl Family Foundation, Anita Keefe, Janice Boyd, Alex and Michael Shuman, the Anders Sterner family, Nancy Chambers, Greg LaMorte, Kathryn and Walter McAdams, Joseph Golden, Megumi Oka and the Makioka Foundation), and partially from the National Science Foundation (grants BCS-0920878 and BCS-1026256) to Ken Nakayama; any opinions, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. We thank Bill Heess, Samuel Moulton, and Maryam Vaziri Pashkam for advice and assistance with statistical analyses, Anna Schwartz for assistance in Experiment 2, and Felix Warneken for comments and discussion. The study procedures comply with the current laws of the USA, where they were performed.

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Correspondence to Irene M. Pepperberg.

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Péron, F., John, M., Sapowicz, S. et al. A study of sharing and reciprocity in grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus). Anim Cogn 16, 197–210 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-012-0564-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-012-0564-0

Keywords

  • Psittacus erithacus
  • Parrot
  • Value attribution
  • Nonhuman sharing
  • Reciprocity
  • Mutualism