Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Birds Show Superior Listening Skills

Date:
June 30, 2004
Source:
University Of Alberta
Summary:
Being called a bird-brain might not be so bad, after all. Canadian researchers have shown that humans just aren't cut out to discern certain pitches like their feathered friends.

Being called a bird-brain might not be so bad, after all.

Canadian researchers have shown that humans just aren't cut out to discern certain pitches like their feathered friends. Testing completed on humans, rats, and three different species of birds shows that the birds--even ones that have been raised in isolation--are better at identifying, classifying, and memorizing absolute pitches than both humans and rats, with humans performing just slightly better than rats.

"It's amazing how dissimilar the results of this test are when you compare humans and birds," said Dr. Chris Sturdy, a psychology professor at the University of Alberta. "Humans and rats are weak by any standard, and they're just awful when you compare them to the songbirds."

For the study, humans were given monetary rewards when they memorized or recognized the pitches that were played for them, while the birds (zebra finches, white throated sparrows, and budgerigars) and rats were given food rewards.

Sturdy said humans actually perform fairly well in tests of relative pitch, which refers to the relationship between two pitch sounds played one right after the other, allowing the listener to use one pitch as a reference for the other. However, when humans try to comprehend absolute pitch, which refers to pitches played alone without any external standard to contrast them with, their ability is "lackluster at best," he said.

Sturdy believes that it is too early in the ongoing research to speculate extensively about the cause of the striking difference between the absolute pitch processing abilities of birds and mammals. Whatever the cause, Sturdy thinks it cannot be special to humans because other mammals (rats) are no better at judging absolute pitch than humans.

The latest findings from this study, which are published this month in the journal Behavioral Processes, take the researchers to the middle stages of an ongoing project to determine if all birds are better equipped than all mammals to understand absolute pitch. Absolute pitch testing is planned on more mammals and bird species. The goal is to create a map of absolute pitch understanding among as many animals as possible.

"How animals understand absolute pitch may get to the heart of the origins of musical perception," Sturdy added. "Once we can determine the extent of the differences in absolute pitch perception, then we can begin to understand why these differences exist and why our mammalian brains work the way they do."

The study was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Sturdy's work is also funded by the Alberta Ingenuity Fund and by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Alberta. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Alberta. "Birds Show Superior Listening Skills." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 June 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/06/040630081222.htm>.
University Of Alberta. (2004, June 30). Birds Show Superior Listening Skills. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/06/040630081222.htm
University Of Alberta. "Birds Show Superior Listening Skills." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/06/040630081222.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Possible Ebola Patient in Isolation at California Hospital

Possible Ebola Patient in Isolation at California Hospital

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 20, 2014) — A patient who may have been exposed to the Ebola virus is in isolation at the Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 20, 2014) — Forget rolling on rubber, could car drivers soon be traveling on tires made from dandelions? Teams of scientists are racing to breed a type of the yellow flower whose taproot has a milky fluid with tire-grade rubber particles in it. As Joanna Partridge reports, global tire makers are investing millions in research into a new tire source. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) — Poachers have killed 100,000 elephants between 2010 and 2012, as the booming ivory trade takes its toll on the animals in Africa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) — Scientists have developed a new device that mimics the way octopuses blend in with their surroundings to hide from dangerous predators. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins