Researchers at Washington State University discovered that birds seek high-risk rewards when choosing between high and low-risk foods. When given low-risk and high-risk food options, researchers found that many birds ate the high-risk food, even though it was less nutritional. Similarly, people tend to be drawn to high-risk activities despite the lack of benefits. For example, people may choose to engage in high-risk activities such as skydiving, even though safer and more reliable options like driving a car.
Americans enjoy betting– 86 percent of people have bet a minimum of once in their lives– and it turns out we’re not alone. A brand-new study by the University of Kentucky reveals that pigeons will also try their luck if given an opportunity.
Researchers tested the hypothesis that risk-taking is a biological imperative common to all species by setting up an experiment where pigeons were allowed to choose between two foods: a sure but less desirable seed or a riskier but more desirable seed. The investigation showed that pigeons preferred more dangerous but more desirable food options, suggesting that risk-taking might be a biological imperative common to all species.
The research setup went like this: A group of captive pigeons was presented with a choice between 2 white lights. It got three food pellets a hundred percent of the time if the bird pecked one white light. The other light shelled out ten food pellets 20 percent of the time, implying that the pigeon’s haul would balance two pellets per turnover time.
The experimenters, led by psychology professor Thomas Zentall, expected to discover that pigeons would most frequently select the consistent three-pellet score. In the face of evolutionary pressures, the ensured outcome was food on the table. The research study exposed that pigeons most frequently ventured to take a danger, betting on the 10-pellet payday.
So how does this equate to human actions? “As a psychologist, I’m interested in habits that appear unreasonable,” states Zentall. “Studying pigeons lets us develop an evolutionary basis for suboptimal habits.”
The birds with the most restricted access to food were most likely to opt for the riskier option. A similar paradox appears in people; the lower their socioeconomic status, the most likely they will bank on the farm.
Similarly, birds that were offered time to mingle with their peers stopped going broke. That finding mirrored the previous discovery that compulsive human bettors tend to show improved impulse control when exposed to improving social environments– with favorable assistance, they are less likely to slip into bad practices.
Overall, the study suggests evolution might have stacked the deck versus issue bettors because animals overplay their hands. Zentall hopes the research can help shed light on a possible treatment for a gambling dependency, which is a bet worth making.
Zentall’s work may also be relevant to investors, who frequently encounter situations where they must choose between a confident and uncertain payout. By understanding how people often make decisions in a way that is not mathematically correct but evolutionarily appropriate, investors may be able to make better decisions.