So, OK, they're not super-geniuses, but still, it's nice that they care.
Pigeons Understand Statistics Better Than We Do
Pigeons, commonly known as the rats of the sky, are the dumbest, most ubiquitous birds on Earth. Or so we assume. It might surprise you to learn that they would probably beat your ass on a game show.
That's pretty big talk for a species that hasn't invented gunpowder, pigeons.
Specifically, the old show Let's Make a Deal, which is famous among statisticians for spawning a statistical aberration known as the "Monty Hall problem," named after the show's host. In short, Monty Hall presents three doors and tells you that a brand new car is behind one of them, but the other two contain goats or some other hilarious "fuck you" prize. You pick one door, but instead of telling you what's behind it, Hall opens one of the other two doors that contains a goat, and asks you whether you want to change your decision.
Most people stick with their initial instinct, because they still have a 1 in 2 chance of getting the car, right? Wrong! In reality, you still have a 2 in 3 chance of being wrong, which means that switching to the other door will get you the car 66 percent of the time. It seems absurd, and it absolutely is, but if you don't believe it, there are simulations that prove it (note: you cannot actually win a car in the simulation).
Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images
Nor a goat.
What does this have to do with pigeons? Well, as we said, most people faced with this dilemma choose not to change their original decision, because we just can't get our heads around it. Not so for pigeons. A study published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology showed that pigeons discover the secret to the Monty Hall problem more quickly than humans do, even when a considerable number of professional human mathematicians still refuse to believe.
They replicated the problem with colored keys that lit up when pecked, because getting them to understand doors and television sets would be stretching it a little. Upon choosing a key, one of the other keys would deactivate, signaling a wrong answer. The birds that chose the right one out of those two were rewarded with food, and the wrong one led to nothing but a few free non-eating moments to think about how not to get caught by scientists the next time.
Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images
Possibly accompanied by a few disappointed head shakes from the pigeon's father.
At first, a lot of them chose the wrong one like us and didn't switch, or maybe they didn't want to attract too much attention by solving it in the first go. But after some time, all of the test birds started switching, every single time. They learned that the third door has the highest chance of having the prize, so technically goddamn pigeons deserve those trips to Spain and refrigerators more than we do.
Andrew is also an independent musician, and you can help him out by liking his page here, downloading his album from it, or both! You can say hi to Himanshu on Twitter.
Always on the go but can't get enough of Cracked? We have an Android app and iOS reader for you to pick from so you never miss another article.
Related Reading: You know what else animals have in common with people? Getting fucked up. Also? Birds password-protect their nests. And parrots name their babies! Which probably means we should stop having Parrot Meat Taco Tuesdays at Cracked.