Study Finds Birds Demonstrate Self-Control In A Similar Way To Children

We know that we all need some self-control because it can do us good in life. There are some of us who seem to have it in abundance, and others who may need to work on that part of their life.

According to a recent study, birds also have self-control and some of them have a considerable amount of it.

Photo: YouTube/Cambridge University

The study was inspired by a previous test done in 1972 on human children. That test, known as the “Stanford Marshmallow” test gave marshmallows to children. They could have one right away but if they waited, they could have two.

If you look into the subject, you will find that birds have an incredible amount of intelligence. They often show similar features that are attributed to humans, and as the birds are studied, we only grow in appreciation for what they have to offer.

In this particular study by Cambridge University, jays were used. According to a press release, the birds were presented with their three favorite foods, mealworms, cheese, and bread. In the end, all of the birds were able to pass the test by ignoring what was available immediately and waiting until a screen was raised so they could see what was on the other side.

Photo: flickr/hedera.baltica

One of those birds, Jaylo, waited an entire five minutes and 30 seconds with a piece of cheese in front of her. Her effort was rewarded because she was given a mealworm, which she preferred.

According to the press release, a doctor from the University of Cambridge, Dr. Alex Schnell, said: “In multiple trials, I sat there watching Jaylo ignore a piece of cheese for over five minutes. I was getting bored, but she was just patiently waiting for the worm.”

There were also some birds that did not quite have the level of self-control that Jaylo demonstrated. This included Homer and Dolci, who only waited a total of 20 seconds before giving in.

They also noted that the birds showed a similar trait that was seen in children and chimpanzees. When bread or cheese was presented, they tried to distract themselves by looking away.

The jays would also adjust, depending on what was in front of them. At times, they could see the worm but not reach it so they would go ahead and eat the cheese or bread.

Photo: flickr/Aivars Kuznecovs

They also would wait longer for the worm if they were first shown their least favorite of the three foods. That shows a lot of flexibility in their levels of self-control.

This may have real-world consequences for those birds, as some types of birds will hide food for later and they have to resist instant gratification so they will not starve when times get tough.

People, Pets & Planet

Help where it’s needed most at GreaterGood for free!