Aggressive magpies are less intelligent

Violence not only doesn’t solve anything… but it can also reduce intelligence. At least, in this type of birds. Aggressive magpies are less intelligent. This is what researchers from the University of Western Australia say.

Dr Lizzie Speechley is based in the UWA School of Biological Sciences. She was the lead author of the paper published with this conclusion in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Aggressive magpies are less intelligent.
Aggressive magpies are less intelligent.

The aggressiveness subsides

«Magpies live in cooperative social groups. “This finding suggests that being aggressive toward members of your group is not beneficial,” Dr. Speechley said. The study investigated the group size and individual social networks of wild Western Australian magpies, Gymnorhina tibicen dorsalis. He discovered that community dynamics can drive intellectual evolution and development.

The researchers quantified social connectivity using four types of interaction: proximity, affiliative, agonistic, and vocal. «Group size is often used as a measure of social complexity. “But this may not capture the variation in the dynamics of social interactions within that group.” Dr. Speechley said this in a statement.

The study analyzed 18 groups of magpies (80 to 120 individuals). They studied how social interaction influenced their ability to gather, retain, and use information from their environment to guide their behavior. The intelligence of the magpies was put to the test. They used a wooden rack with color-coded lids that rotated when pecked. If the correct cap was pecked, the magpie received a food reward.

Magpies that interacted aggressively were found to be less intelligent.
Magpies that interacted aggressively were found to be less intelligent.

The search for innovation

“What we saw is in line with previous research on this species. Individuals in larger groups performed better on associative learning tasks,” Dr. Speechley said. «However, the position of the magpies in the social network also influenced their performance. Aggressive magpies are less intelligent. Individuals who received aggression performed better. While those who participated in aggressive interactions did worse.

The findings support the hypothesis that “necessity drives innovation.” This suggests that individuals will invest more time in finding solutions to new problems if they cannot monopolize resources through, for example, aggression.

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