Museum of Science and Industry


"Bring it."  "Oh, I'll bring it, bird."

Some of my friends argue that birds are super-smart – maybe even smarter than human children! So far, I haven’t been convinced. And now, depending on how you look at it, one of us has some new evidence on their side! Scientists at the University of Cambridge have completed a study comparing how kids and birds behave when trying to solve a certain birdbrained problem.

Basing their experiments on the old Aesop’s Fable “The Crow and the Pitcher,” scientists challenged children to retrieve a small prize floating in a narrow tube of water. Using a special setup and comparing results to a similar experiment with Eurasian Jay birds, the scientists found something interesting. When the goal could only be achieved by doing something that seemed illogical, the birds were generally unsuccessful. The young humans, on the other hand, were able to complete the task, apparently unaffected by the lack of rational explanation for how it worked.

Which side of the argument do you think these findings support? Are the birds smarter because they were thinking logically, or the kids because they were more open to learning through trial and error?

Image: Flickr user Schristia

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