Black kites are a raptor variety that lives on multiple continents, and like several other varieties of bird (including the crafty bowerbirds), they’re avid decorators. For whatever reason, these black kites are terribly fond of white plastic, and the birds use these bits of our refuse to decorate their nests. Scientists who studied these birds in Spain report in Science this week that there is a meaning—and a strict honesty—to the decoration scheme.
They found that, several weeks before females laid eggs, birds festooned their nests with pieces of white plastic. Fitter birds, in possession of the best territory, tended to use more plastic. Weaker birds, with less-desirable territory, used less. Elderly and very young birds used none. Territorial confrontations are common among kites, and proved closely linked to displays of plastic. Kites with much plastic in their nest were rarely challenged, while those with little were challenged daily, even hourly. [Wired]
With so much at stake, you might think these raptors have the ideal motivation to cheat—decorating more liberally than their status would allow, perhaps, as a “don’t mess with me” message to their rivals. But not so, Fabrizio Sergio and his team found. Kites tell the truth with their status symbols because it’s not worth the risk of being caught in a lie.
The best poker players are masters of deception. They’re good at manipulating the actions of other players, while masking their own so that their lies become undetectable. But even the best deceivers have tells, and Meghana Bhatt from Baylor University has found some fascinating ones. By scanning the brains and studying the behaviour of volunteers playing a simple bargaining game, she has found different patterns of brain activity that correspond to different playing styles. These “neural signatures” separate the players who are adept at strategic deception from those who play more straightforwardly.
For more about what Bhatt’s study revealed—and to figure out whether you’d be an “incrementalist,” a “conservative,” or a “strategist” kind of player—check out the rest of the post at DISCOVER blog Not Exactly Rocket Science.
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Will vs. Grace – are people honest because they resist temptation or because they don’t feel it?
80beats: A Hide-and-Seek-Playing Robot Learns How to Lie
80beats: Study: Damage to Brain’s Fear Center Makes People Riskier Gamblers
Image: flickr / Morberg
It fakes to the left; it goes to the right. But the deceiver isn’t a running back, and this isn’t football. Meet the newest lying robot.
Georgia Tech scientists Alan Wagner and Ronald Arkin created two bots on wheels that play hide and seek with each other. The hider, however, had something the seeker lacked: an algorithm in its programming that allowed it, under certain circumstances, to fib. The prevaricating machine was pretty good at it, too, fooling the naive seeker three-quarters of the time in a simple test.
Here’s the setup: There are three spaces in which the hider could hide—left, middle, and right. There are also three markers standing in a row, the idea being that the hiding bot would run over the left marker if it decided to hide at left, or the right marker if it decided to hide at right. The seeker bot knows this, and so it would look for the clue of a fallen marker to predict where its target is hiding.