Are parrots smarter than babies

Logical thinking: African gray parrots as smart as three-year-old children

African gray parrots are likely to have a similar understanding of cause and effect as a child of about three years of age. The animals have mastered the process of elimination: if they know that one of two plastic boxes contains food, it is enough for them to shake the empty box.

From the lack of rattling, the intelligent birds conclude that the food must be in the other box. This is shown by experiments by a German-Austrian research team.

This kind of logical conclusion, almost around two corners, has so far only been observed in humans and great apes. All other tested animal species, including other monkey species and dogs, would have failed in such tests, the researchers report in the journal "Proceedings of the Royal Society B".

Relationship between cause and effect

In their opinion, the experiments indicate that African gray parrots understand the connection between cause and effect and act accordingly.

From around the age of three, human children understand that a filled container usually rattles or makes other noises when shaken, and an empty container does not. They understand the causal relationship between the noise and the filling.

Christian Schloegl from the University of Vienna and his colleagues from Vienna, Göttingen and Tübingen have now tested whether gray parrots also have this ability.

But they raised the bar a little higher for the intelligent birds. They wanted to know if the parrots understood that it was not worth looking under a non-rattling container.

Logical conclusion about two corners

The experimental setup consisted of two opaque plastic boxes on a table. Only one of the two had a walnut kernel - a parrot favorite. A scientist shook either the filled box, the empty box, or both boxes in front of the birds' eyes - and ears.

"To solve the problem, the parrots have to draw conclusions over two steps," the researchers explain. First they had to combine the rattling or non-rattling with the presence or absence of food in the container.