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In the experiment, Griffin was partnered with a human. A subordinate bird in the lab was also tested separately. They were each able to take turns and choose one of four cups that held a different consequence. The purple cup meant that nobody received a treat. The orange cup only gives the partner a treat, while the pink cup only gives the selector a treat. The green cup was the “sharing” cup, as both partners received a treat when that cup was selected.
In a previous study, human partners played different roles by favoring a certain color cup, while one partner would copy whatever the bird chose. The birds tended to act similarly to those with an agenda, by giving to the generous partner and being stingy with the selfish partner, but did not act as consistently with the copier. Researchers theorized that the birds weren’t able to pick up on the mirroring from the human, because it sharply contrasted with humans who exhibited set behavior. Most of the time, Griffin chose the green sharing cup when dealing with the copycat, while the subordinate bird did not change behavior. While it did suggest an understanding of reciprocity with Griffin, the researchers suggested that the partners with certain motivations may have been skewing the results, and the latest study only uses a copycat partner.
Griffin, once again, showed strong signs that he understood the mutual benefit from sharing.