Study on cooperation and competition

Published on November 18, 2008 Updated on May 27, 2010
The study undertaken by Franck Péron under the supervision of D. Bovet and L. Nagle tends to highlight some components of the Social Brain Hypothesis such as competition, cooperation, deception,  selfish and prosocial behaviours in African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) and Budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus). Read more.

Our birds have been tested on the four levels of cooperation defined by Boesch & Boesch (1989) which are: similarity (same goal), synchrony (adapt in time), coordination (adapt in time & space) & collaboration (complementary actions). Our Greys have been able to learn to wait for a partner and to understand the role of this latter, adapting their behaviour to the social availability of the conspecifics and to the spatial disposition of the experimental setups. The parrots also acted complementary during the final experiment: the collaboration, but were unable to exchange their roles.

The same paradigm is currently undertaken with budgerigars. Birds reached the first level but have difficulties to synchronize their actions. The experiment is still in progress.

We also wanted to study whether African grey parrots take others' welfare into consideration. Do they prefer outcomes that benefit a conspecific over outcomes that do not, everything else being equal? In order to answer these questions we conducted experiments based on token exchange paradigm. Arbitrary values are attributed to different tokens: a no rewarding token, a second token which associated outcome is a reward for the working bird only and the last token for which the working bird and a conspecific both receive a reward. Results suggest that the only thing that matters for the working birds is their own rewards: they rapidly cease to take the no rewarding token but they don't discriminate between the two others. Birds display frustrated behaviour when the situation is not favourable. Grey parrots are also able to cooperate by giving a token to a conspecific who in turn gives the object to the experimenter so that the parrots receive the reward.

Acknowledgments: Hélène Normand, Lauriane Rat-Fischer, Mathilde Lalot, Eléonore de Meyrignac, Julie Simon, Sophie Duhautois, Paul Maître, Franz Heidocker, Agathe Colléon, Agatha Liévin.

Updated on 27 mai 2010