Think your children are bird-brains? You’re right – our feathered friends outperform 7-year-olds in logic tests

Eurasian jays outperform 7-year-olds in logic tests

Birds do better than humans in two out of three tests

 

In two of the three tests, the birds ¿ Eurasian jays ¿ did just as well as the seven-year-old children

In two of the three tests, the birds ¿ Eurasian jays ¿ did just as well as the seven-year-old children

It is a parent’s favourite boast: how bright their son or daughter is.

But up until the age of seven, children are, at least in some respects, be no brainier than birds.

Using tests reminiscent of the Aesop’s fable in which a thirsty crow is able to drink from a pitcher after using pebbles to raise the water level, researchers pitted birds against boys and girls.

In two of the three tests, the birds – Eurasian jays – did just as well as the seven-year-old children.

After this, the human mind proved superior to the bird brain.

The Cambridge University experiments built on earlier work in which jays quickly learned that adding stones to a cylinder half-filled with water would bring a tasty treat floating on the surface within reach of their beaks.

The jays – colourful members of the crow family about the same size as jackdaws – also realised that it was better to use pebbles, which sink, than corks, which float.

When Cambridgeshire schoolchildren were set similar tasks, they did just as well as the jays on the first, up until the age of seven.

From the age of eight, the pupils learned more quickly than the birds.

The pattern was similar with the second task – except the four-year-olds did worse than the jays.

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However, a third more complex task separated the children from the birds.

This once again involved dropping objects into water to raise its level.

However, this time, a U-shaped tube was used but the join at its bottom was hidden, given the impression that it was two separate tubes.

This meant that dropping a stone or marble into one ‘tube’ led to the water rising in the ‘other’ – a counter- intuitive result.

Brainy boy? Up until the age of seven, children are, at least in some respects, be no brainier than birds

Brainy boy? Up until the age of seven, children are, at least in some respects, be no brainier than birds

This appeared to confuse the birds. However, the children did as well as before, the journal PLoS ONE reports.

The researchers said this shows that children are better at putting preconceptions aside.

Lucy Cheke, a PhD student, said: ‘It is a child’s job to learn about the world and they can’t do that if they are limited by a preconceived idea about what is or is not possible.

‘For a child, if it works, it works.The birds, however, found it much harder to learn what was happening because they were put off by the fact that it shouldn’t be happening.’

Previous research has shown jays, rooks, crows and ravens to be the brainiest birds, while the New World quail earned the dubious honour of being the most stupid.

In the fable that inspired the latest experiments, a crow half-dead with thirst came across a pitcher with some water in the bottom, out of reach of his beak.

After attempts trying and trying to push his head far enough into the pitcher, he hit upon the idea of using pebbles to raise the water level.

He added pebble after pebble and was finally able to quench his thirst.

via Think your children are bird-brains? You’re right – our feathered friends outperform 7-year-olds in logic tests | Mail Online.

Jimmy Kilpatrick, a national recognized professional special education advocate since 1994.

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