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James Hong

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Birds would do better on "Let's make a Deal" than humans!

This is very interesting! Apparently birds understand Bayes Theorem better than humans do!

via kevin lewis.


Are birds smarter than mathematicians? Pigeons (Columba livia) perform
optimally on a version of the Monty Hall Dilemma

Walter Herbranson & Julia Schroeder
Journal of Comparative Psychology, February 2010, Pages 1-13

The “Monty Hall Dilemma” (MHD) is a well known probability puzzle in which a
player tries to guess which of three doors conceals a desirable prize. After
an initial choice is made, one of the remaining doors is opened, revealing
no prize. The player is then given the option of staying with their initial
guess or switching to the other unopened door. Most people opt to stay with
their initial guess, despite the fact that switching doubles the probability
of winning. A series of experiments investigated whether pigeons (Columba
livia), like most humans, would fail to maximize their expected winnings in
a version of the MHD. Birds completed multiple trials of a standard MHD,
with the three response keys in an operant chamber serving as the three
doors and access to mixed grain as the prize. Across experiments, the
probability of gaining reinforcement for switching and staying was
manipulated, and birds adjusted their probability of switching and staying
to approximate the optimal strategy. Replication of the procedure with human
participants showed that humans failed to adopt optimal strategies, even
with extensive training.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will make a wild prediction here. Other species with long length of childhood would also do poorly on this test. There may be some evolutionary advantage for humans to act this way, and my guess is that it is linked to the high cost of raising a child. As a parent I can testify that economically it is like picking the "losing" door but you stick with it anyway. Maslow's hierarchy of needs at work.

11:55 AM  

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