Not Your Average Bird Brain | Summary and Q&A

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July 2, 2020
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Harvard University
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Not Your Average Bird Brain

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Summary

In this video, Griffin, a highly skilled student, is used as an example to demonstrate a cognitive task involving colored pompoms covered with cups. Surprisingly, Griffin outperforms Harvard students in this task, showcasing the impressive cognitive abilities of birds. The reason behind these birds' intelligence lies in the density of neurons in their small brains, comparable to that of non-human primates. The manipulation abilities of birds may have originated from a common ancestor millions of years ago.

Questions & Answers

Q: What task did Griffin excel at?

Griffin excelled at a cognitive task involving colored pompoms covered with cups. The goal was to remember the locations of the pompoms under the cups as they were moved in a certain pattern. Despite its difficulty, Griffin was able to keep track of all four pompoms better than the Harvard students.

Q: How did Griffin perform compared to the Harvard students?

Griffin either matched or beat the Harvard students in the cognitive task, up to three moves. However, when the task became more complex with three or four moves, his performance started to decline and fell below that of the Harvard students.

Q: What is the reason behind the birds' impressive cognitive abilities?

The birds' intelligence can be attributed to the density of neurons in their brains, despite their small size. These birds, including parrots, have brains the size of a walnut and yet their neurons are packed so densely that their density is comparable to that of non-human primates.

Q: How far back can the origins of birds' manipulation abilities be traced?

The manipulation abilities, although limited, are believed to have originated from a common ancestor of birds and humans, dating back to the time of dinosaurs, over 300 million years ago. Over time, these abilities have developed and become more complex.

Q: How many moves can Griffin keep track of in the cognitive task?

Griffin's cognitive abilities allow him to keep track of up to three moves in the task, surpassing the performance of the Harvard students. However, when the number of moves increased to three or four, his ability to remember the locations declined.

Q: What is the size of a bird's brain compared to a walnut?

The brain of a bird is similar in size to a walnut. It may seem small, but its density of neurons makes up for its size, allowing birds to possess impressive cognitive abilities.

Q: What is the density of neurons in bird brains comparable to?

The density of neurons in bird brains is comparable to that of non-human primates. Despite their small size, birds' brains are densely packed with neurons, enabling them to exhibit high cognitive abilities.

Q: How well did Griffin perform in the cognitive task compared to Harvard students?

Griffin performed at the same level as or better than the Harvard students in the cognitive task involving colored pompoms. His abilities surpassed theirs for up to three moves, demonstrating his exceptional cognitive skills.

Q: How did Griffin's performance decline in the cognitive task?

Griffin's performance in the cognitive task declined when the number of moves increased to three or four. At this point, his ability to remember the locations of the colored pompoms fell below that of the Harvard students.

Q: What is the reason for the birds' superior performance in the cognitive task?

The dense packing of neurons in birds' brains is responsible for their superior performance in the cognitive task. Despite having brains the size of a walnut, the density of neurons enables birds to exhibit highly developed cognitive abilities.

Takeaways

This video highlights the exceptional cognitive abilities of birds, focusing on Griffin's performance in a cognitive task involving colored pompoms. It is astonishing that birds, with brains the size of a walnut, can outperform humans in certain cognitive tasks. The density of neurons in their brains plays a crucial role in their intelligence, comparable to that of non-human primates. This intelligence likely originated from a common ancestor millions of years ago, gradually developing into the complex abilities seen in birds today.

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