Researchers say pigeons reflect the learning patterns of artificial intelligence

Head shot of a beautiful Woodpidgeon
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  • According to researchers, pigeons’ problem solving method is very similar to artificial intelligence.
  • Pigeons use the same “brute force” method often seen in artificial intelligence.
  • The researchers found that this method helped pigeons perform certain types of tasks even better than humans.

It seems the “birds aren’t real” people might have a point.

According to a news release, researchers from Ohio State University and the University of Iowa found that pigeons use a “brute force” method of problem solving, similar to that found in artificial intelligence.

Brandon Turner, professor of psychology at Ohio State, said the researchers “found really strong evidence that the mechanisms that drive pigeon learning are remarkably similar to the same principles that drive modern machine learning and artificial intelligence.”

The researchers showed the birds a stimulus that consisted of lines of different widths, concentric rings, and cut rings that the bird had to categorize by pecking a button on the left or right side. This version states that if he got the correct answer, he was welcomed.

Through trial and error, the pigeons improved their performance from 55 percent to 95 percent correct answers on a simpler task, according to the release. The researchers conducted similar experiments using AI and found that the AI ​​also learned to reduce its error rate.

The study, published in the journal IScience, says that pigeons have advanced cognitive and attentional processes and can solve a wide range of classification tasks.

Turner said the findings show that pigeons are “incredibly efficient” natural learners who can’t generalize information the way humans can.

According to Turner, pigeons use associative learning, which associates two things, for example, dogs understand that they enjoy sitting when they sit. Turner said in the release that associative learning is commonly thought to be “too primitive” to do things like visual categorization, but apparently not for pigeons.

According to the researchers, humans tend to skip tasks when they can’t establish rules for understanding their tasks, just like pigeons are given.

“Pigeons don’t try to make rules. They just use this method of trial and error and associative learning and in certain kinds of tasks that helps them do better than humans,” Turner said.

He noted that humans often celebrate how smart we are to have designed artificial intelligence, while disparaging pigeons as less intelligent animals.

“But the learning principles that drive the behaviors of these AI machines are very similar to what pigeons use,” Turner says.

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