Health | Animals

Brace Yourself: New Zealand Has Created Super Birds - Or At Least Literate Pigeons

New Zealand has literate pigeons. That's right, researches at the University of Otago in New Zealand have been working with pigeons to see just how intelligent the bird really is. After spending eight months tracking and testing 18 pigeons they managed to find four who would be taught how to read. This may fall into that Ian Malcolm ethics category of "they were so busy trying to see if they could do it they didn't stop to think if they should".

Ian Malcolm may have a point, but these scientists went ahead with testing these pigeons with some primary exercises that taught them how to get food out of a bird seed hopper and recognize shapes. It won't be long until they take over now.

After the pigeons were able to differentiate shapes they moved onto letters. The four birds were able to correctly identify the spelling mistakes of different words. For example, when presented with the word "VREY" they would know that the "R" was in the wrong place and that it should be "VERY".

Apparently the pigeons were able to learn how to spell by using an "orthographic" style of learning language which uses shapes and visuals to learn words. Essentially if it looks right to the them. Humans apparently use this type of learning as well as decoding which is the letter-sound relationship.

The part of the brain that is active during reading is called the Visual Work Form Area which allows humans to identify words faster. It is also how primates are able to learn language. This study found that these pigeons were able to learn language in a similar way to humans and primates.

Specifically, we demonstrate that pigeons trained to discriminate words from nonwords picked up on the orthographic properties that define words and used this knowledge to identify words they had never seen before...Our research demonstrates that orthographic processing is not limited to primates

So prepare yourself for the rise of the super-pigeons because their ability to demonstrate "visual recycling" allows them to recognize and learn language so there will be no where to hide.


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