Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

People and pigeons share risky ways

Pigeons are similar to people when it comes to taking risks, research showed
Pigeons are similar to people when it comes to taking risks, research showed

Gamblers are real bird-brains in the way they are tempted to take risks, scientists have found.

Research has shown that both human gamblers and pigeons are 35% more likely to take greater risks when there is a chance of a big win.

Dr Elliot Ludvig, from the University of Warwick's Department of Psychology, said: "Birds are distantly related to humans, yet we still share the same basic psychology that drives risk-taking. This may be due to a shared common ancestry or similar evolutionary pressures.

"When people gamble, they often rely on past experiences with risk and rewards to make decisions. What we found in this study is that pigeons used these past experiences in very similar ways to guide their future gambling decisions. Any big wins we've had in the past are memorable and stand-out when we are making our decision to gamble again."

Human volunteers and pigeons were tested with four options: two that led to high-value rewards and two that led to low-value rewards.

While humans were rewarded with points, the pigeons were rewarded with food.

For each high or low reward level, one safe option resulted in a guaranteed fixed reward, and one risky option yielded a 50/50 chance of a better or worse outcome.

Both birds and humans alike were found to be 35% more likely to take a gamble on the high-value rewards.

The study, published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, was conducted in collaboration with the University of Alberta, Canada, and part-funded by the Alberta Gambling Research Institute.

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