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High level of self-control ability in a small passerine bird

  • Emil Isaksson
  • A. Utku Urhan
  • Anders Brodin
Publiceringsår: 2018-07-01
Språk: Engelska
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Volym: 72
Nummer: 7
Dokumenttyp: Artikel i tidskrift
Förlag: Springer

Abstract english

Abstract: Cognitively advanced animals are usually assumed to possess better self-control, or ability to decline immediate rewards in favour of delayed ones, than less cognitively advanced animals. It has been claimed that the best predictor of high such ability is absolute brain volume meaning that large-brained animals should perform better than small-brained ones. We tested self-control ability in the great tit, a small passerine. In the common test of this ability, the animal is presented with a transparent cylinder that contains a piece of food. If the animal tries to take the reward through the transparent wall of the cylinder, this is considered an impulsive act and it fails the test. If it moves to an opening and takes the reward this way, it passes the test. The average performance of our great tits was 80%, higher than most animals that have been tested and almost in level with the performance in corvids and apes. This is remarkable considering that the brain volume of a great tit is 3% of that of a raven and 0.1% of that of a chimpanzee. Significance statement: The transparent cylinder test is the most common way to test the ability of self-control in animals. If an animal understands that it only can take food in the cylinder from the cylinder’s opening and controls its impulsivity, it passes the test. A high level of self-control has been demonstrated only in cognitively advanced animals such as apes and corvids. Here, we demonstrate that the great tit, a small song bird that is very good at learning, performs almost in level with chimpanzees and ravens in this test.


  • Zoology
  • Brain volume
  • Cognition
  • Great tit
  • Self-control
  • Transparent cylinder test


  • ISSN: 0340-5443
Utku Urhan
E-post: utku [dot] urhan [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Evolutionär ekologi

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