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Pigeons Gambling Doesn’t Pay

Written by:
Greg Tingle
Published on:
Oct/22/2010

G'day punters, casino billionaires, those who aspire to be, journalists... one and all. We've been hunting the world over for unusual gambling news, and have we got a prize catch for you. more. Media Man and Gambling911 take you off the mouse and rat treadmill of life and swing into safari mode, and offer up pigeon on the menu for your culinary delight...

Gambling Not Paying Off For Pigeons...

Gambling has long enjoyed an association with animals and nature, be it nature and animal themed slot games like Goanna Gold, Black Rhino, Penguin Pays, Snow Business, Unicorn Legend, or the gambling tendencies of birds, crocodiles or sharks, and let us not forget land based casinos always looking to net more "dolphins", "whales" and "super whales".

No, its not the Betfair pink pigeons, but, the latest news we have hunted down is bound to send you animal and might just spark a feeding frenzy and will have the piranha out in full force.

Many gamblers like to risk their winnings for the opportunity of a much larger win, and now we learn pigeons like to take the same risk.

Secret research demonstrates pigeons prefer an all-or-nothing (sound like sex?) outcome rather than the guarantee of a much smaller reward.

The mysterious researchers tip this runs contrary to "optimal foraging theory", which says animals evolve to make the most rational choices possible to help guarantee their survival on gods green earth.

Instead it seems pigeons, branded pink or otherwise, behave more like human gamblers, risking everything for the small chance of a big return.

In the experiment, 8 "lucky" pigeons were taught the outcomes of two different sequences if they pecked either a vertical or a horizontal line on a screen.

They learned that if they chose the vertical line, they had a 20% of a big food reward (10 pellets) and an 80% of no reward at all (0 pellets). If they chose the horizontal line, they had a guaranteed reward of 3 pellets... which is a non-gambling option.

When the pigeons were then presented with the choice of pecking either vertical or horizontal lines, to the surprise of the researchers, most chose the vertical line despite the fact that it gave them less food overall!

Averaged over many trials, 6 of the 8 pigeons made choices that gave them an average of two food pellets over an alternative three.

"This choice behaviour mimics human monetary gambling in which the infrequent occurrence of a stimulus signalling the winning event is overemphasised and the more frequent occurrence of a stimulus signalling the losing event is underemphasised," the secret squirrel researchers write.

So, we only remember our wins, not our losses. How much are you up today?

One secret behavioural biologist says the results are interesting because they contradict accepted theory.

"Animals are supposed to make rational decisions," Dr X said.

"An animal would normally think 'what's the easiest way to answer this question?' or 'what's the fastest way to get the food'? - that's why these results are so surprising. What we're seeing here is the concept of a jackpot - you have a very positive feeling when you suddenly get a huge amount of food and you remember that very well, whereas when you lose and you didn't get what you want you discount that."

Dr X believes the pigeon's behaviour may have something to do with their lifestyle.

"Pigeons spend their time looking for seeds or trees that are blooming. These are patchy food sources where there might be a big win if you hit the right patch," she says. So it could be that they are being driven to find the big rewards where there could be a huge amount that will pay off and feed you all at one time, rather than staying on a food source where there is very little reward. It could also be that the pigeons in the experiment weren't that hungry. They knew they were always going to get back to their cage to get food. So it's possible that they didn't need this reward as much - it wasn't a life and death situation."

Either way, Dr X says it raises some interesting questions.

"Perhaps it tells us the reward system in pigeons is more similar to humans than we think," she said.

So animals, which games will you play today, and are you more included to bet small or big, play for free of play for money? Gold Mega Jackpot and The Big One are into the millions at the moment, but you have to feed the machine decently if you are to win. Of course, you can play games for free, but they tend to pay the same. What would Kenny Rogers "The Gambler" do we wonder? Good luck on the slots, and always keep some cash hidden away for your nest egg basket.

Wrap Up...

Readers... er, punters, what's your view on the connection between birds, animals and gambling? Keep checking daily for updates. If you have a bet, please bet with your head, not over it, and for God's sake, have fun.

*Greg Tingle is a special contributor for Gambling911.

*No birds or animals were harmed in the putting together of this report.

*Media Man http://www.mediamanint.com is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. They cover a dozen industry sectors including gaming and offer political commentary and analysis.

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