At first sight, Griffin does not seem smarter than a 4-year-old – it’s just a bird after all. However, a Gray from Gabon can easily surpass young children on some intellectual tests, including one that measures the understanding of volume (in m3).
The classic Piagetian test works as follows: show a child 2 glasses of identical juice and ask him which he wants. The child will laugh and say that they are the same. Then pour the juice into separate containers – one large and thin, the other small and wide – and ask the child to choose.
Children up to 6 years old typically choose the largest container, thinking it contains more juice.
In comparison, Griffin was not taken aback – and was even smart enough to watch the tests that were intended to deceive him – in the face of experiments conducted by Irene Pepperberg, associate researcher at the Harvard Psychology Department, and Francesca Cornero’s Harvard too.
Two different parrot juice containers were shown, which were then poured into sections of which one had a false bottom to give the impression that the contents of the containers were at the same levels.
Each time, Griffin recognized the cup containing the most juice, even when researchers crossed arms to mislead him.
“We first did some tests to see if he would pick the cup that contains the most, and if, when we pour them into new identical cups, he would be able to follow our hand movements. Said Ms. Pepperberg. afterwards we showed him which container had the most and which had the least, and we poured the juice into containers which look like the same but which are not. The idea is that if he follows our movements, Griffin can remember which cut has the most and will not be fooled. ”
For Irene Pepperberg and Francesca Cornero, these tests are a way to explore the intelligence of birds to better understand the roots of the human intellect.
In their environment, birds will need to know that the change in appearance does not affect the amount: for example, a crushed fruit has the same nutritional value as an uncrushed fruit says Irene Pepperberg. “300 million years of evolution separate us from birds, and their brains are organized differently from ours … but obviously this type of knowledge is important in terms of evolution because they have it.