A study into whether grey parrots understand the notion of sharing suggests that they can learn the benefits of reciprocity. The research involved a grey parrot called Griffin, who consistently favoured the option of 'sharing' with two different human partners.
Griffin was presented with a choice of four different coloured cups. A green cup (the sharing option) meant he and his partner each got treats. A pink cup represented the selfish choice as only Griffin got a treat, an orange cup was the giving option as only his partner got a treat, and a violet cup denoted the spiteful selection as no one got treats.
With few exceptions he consistently favoured green for each human partner, indicating he understood the benefits of choosing the 'sharing' option.
The results of this study, carried out by Dr Franck Péron, from the School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, UK, with colleagues at Harvard University and Brandeis University, US, have now been published in the journal Animal Cognition.
The question under investigation was whether Grifﬁn would learn the human partner's actions, understand that the human was replicating his own behaviour by acting in a reciprocal manner, and that by choosing the green (sharing) cup, he could maximize the overall payoff, because then each would receive a reward on each turn.