A group of University of Iowa researchers have proved that pigeons may be capable of making highly intelligent choices with problem-solving skills to match.
The researchers submitted the pigeons to the "string task," a standard test of intelligence which attaches a treat to one of two strings and seeing if the participants can get that treat by pulling the correct string.
In this study, researchers at the University, led by Edward Wasserman, had the birds looking at a computer touch screen with square buttons connected to dishes that appeared to be full or empty. If the bird pecked the correct button on the screen, the food bowl would move closer until eventually, the bird would be presented with real food.
According to Wasserman, Stuit Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Iowa, the pigeons proved they could learn the task with a variety of different string layouts, including crossed strings, which are the most difficult to learn with real strings.
The researchers found the pigeons chose correctly between 74 percent and 90 percent of the time across 3 separate varieties of string tests.
The range of tests, as well as the pigeons' accuracy suggests the virtual string tests may be able to be used in place of conventional string experiments, and with other species.
You can see videos of the pigeons working the string task here.
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