Pigeons Love to Gamble: Study

Research suggests gambling is natural urge, even at lousy odds
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 13, 2010 9:22 AM CDT
Pigeons Love to Gamble: Study
These pigeons may be considering taking a flutter.   (AP Photo/Ric Francis)

Gambling may be a fundamental part of human—and avian—nature, according to researchers who were surprised to learn that pigeons like gambling as much as people do. In the "pigeon casino" the researchers set up, trained birds given a choice of pecking a button that delivered three pellets every time or one that paid off 10 pellets 20% of the time and no pellets 80% usually preferred to aim for the jackpot, the Telegraph reports.

Eight of 10 pigeons in the experiment consistently chose to gamble, despite the fact that the strategy left them with less pellets than if they had played it safe. "This seems to suggest that there is some fundamental behavioral system at work," the lead researcher says. "If pigeons do it, it allows us to rule out other things that have been suggested to explain why people like to gamble so much, such as its entertainment value." (More pigeon stories.)

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