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Pigeons Can Read What Humans Read, Research Says

Pigeons Can Read What Humans Read, Research Says

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First Posted: Sep 22, 2016 05:42 AM EDT
Pigeons can read words as humans can. suraj / Pixabay CC0

People mostly see pigeons in the park. Some feed them while the others shoo them away. They are sometimes considered as "rats in the air." But, beware because what you might be reading in the park can also be read by pigeons. As research shows, pigeons can also learn how to read.

In New Zealand, a team of researchers from the University of Otago, headed by Dr. Damien Scarf gathered 18 pigeons and trained them to identify words from the different string of letters. They introduced the birds to 308 four-letter words randomly mixed along thousands of string of letters, and their goal is to peck on the shown words.

For example, in the experiment, the pigeons come on the screen and need to distinguish words from non-words such as "USRP." Then, the birds need to identify the word among the non-words through pecking. Meanwhile, among the 18 pigeons, researchers identify four pigeons to be outstanding in their experiment. For the birds, sooner or later built vocabularies with a scope of 26 to 58 words over the 8000 non-words shown in a report by IFL Science.com.

To make sure that the pigeons learn and not memorize the words from the non-words, the experts introduce them to new words which they have never seen before. Thus, the birds still correctly identify it.

As a result, Dr. Scarf shared that, the pigeons comprehends certain pairs of letters such as "TH" and "AL" as it was more often show in the English language. The birds were able to identify words with those letters quickly. He also added that "during training, the pigeons derived some general statistical knowledge about the letter combinations that distinguish words from non-words"

In line with this, another researcher, from the Otago's Department of Psychology , Professor Michael Colombo suggested that "we may have to seriously re-think the use of the term 'bird brain' as a put-down," according to Phys.org.com.


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