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Humans love illusions, but are we the only animals that fall for them?

Hosted by: Hank Green

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Sources:


https://www.pnas.org/content/118/24/e2026106118
https://phys.org/news/2021-06-eurasian-jays-people-magic.html
https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-05/potn-hej052621.php
https://theconversation.com/we-performed-magic-tricks-on-birds-to-see-how-they-perceive-the-world-161772
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4313584/
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10071-014-0763-y
https://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/animal-cognition-96639212/

IMAGES

https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/magic-trick-on-stage-gm185254478-19867979
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/jay-gm1305989870-396706875
https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/667521https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/squirrel-holds-a-nut-gm576569498-99057289
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/magic-bunny-rabbit-gm172305801-2925279
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/eurasian-jay-with-an-acorn-gm1187607706-335552552
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/the-eurasian-jay-garrulus-glandarius-is-a-species-of-bird-occurring-over-a-vast-gm1305516871-396383775
This episode of SciShow was  brought to you by LEGO Education.

LEGO Education has been inspiring  teachers and students in the classroom for over 40 years through playful, hands-on, and engaging STEAM learning experiences. Click the link in the  description to learn more about.

LEGO Education SPIKE  Essential, the newest hands-on. STEAM learning solution for grades 1-5. [♪ INTRO]. Magic tricks have always captivated us humans.

But are we the only animals  fooled by sleight of hand? Scientists wondered this too. Not just because it would be a fun  experiment to do, but because it might help them understand how an animal’s  perception differs from a human’s.

So a group of researchers  in the UK decided to put on a little magic show for some  pretty smart birds: Eurasian jays. Scientists have been interested  in Eurasian jays because corvids, which jays are, have pretty  complex cognitive abilities. Now, every animal can perform  basic cognitive functions like navigating their immediate surroundings,  finding food, and seeking safety.

Some can even do things we  associate more with human cognition, like counting and having a concept of time. Abstract thinking, or thinking about  things that are outside our perception, on the other hand, is not something  we usually think of animals doing. It takes abstract thought to build things, to solve problems, make predictions  … and be fooled by magic tricks.

Magic only works because magicians  understand how audiences perceive things, and how to use misdirection to take advantage of the typical blind spots in human attention. Eurasian jays were chosen for this study  because they are particularly smart. In fact, they’re kind of like  little magicians themselves.

Studies have found different  species of corvids doing different types of misdirection, like  sneakily hiding fake caches of food. And these birds can also make educated guesses. In another study, males were  observed accurately predicting their mates’ food preferences.

So yeah, they’re pretty smart, which has made them an easy choice for this research. Sadly, scientists skipped the top  hats and capes and magic wands and pyrotechnics for this particular experiment. They tried fooling the jays  with three different tricks:.

The fast pass, where the magician  moved a treat quickly between hands. Palming, where the magician  hid the treat with one hand. And the French Drop, which was basically just fake-moving the treat from one hand to the other.

All three tricks had the same point:  fooling the jays into thinking there was, or wasn’t, a treat in the magician’s hand. And all three usually work on humans. And they found that the birds were fooled  by one of the tricks, but not the others.

For the palming and French drop tricks  to work, the birds would have to have expectations about what the magician-scientists were probably going to do with their hands. These didn’t fool the jays. And that makes sense because these  tricks require the observer to have some past experience and understanding of  what normal human actions result in.

But the fast pass trick, which just  involves rapid motion, did fool the birds. So humans and jays are both likely  to be tricked by sleight of hand that’s based on gaps in our visual  perception and not on abstract thought. The inability or ability to  be fooled by a magic trick can teach us a lot about how  different animals perceive things.

And that can help us understand how  human cognition works, too, by showing how our brains work similarly to other  species’ and what might make us unique. Thanks to LEGO Education for  supporting this episode of SciShow. LEGO Education is rethinking learning  with fun and engaging solutions that allow students to build important STEAM and social-emotional skills while  learning through purposeful play.

With the new LEGO Education SPIKE  Essential solution, students in grades 1-5 build 21st century skills like critical thinking, creativity and collaboration through  problem-solving and storytelling. SPIKE Essential includes  5 playful curriculum units packed with hours of standards-aligned content. This includes projects like  the Trash Monster Machine!

Sofie is trying to figure out a more fun  way to clean up and throw away trash, so students will help her by designing  a wacky, automated trash monster that reacts in different ways  to different colors of trash! Each set comes in a classroom-ready sturdy storage box with 449 LEGO bricks and hardware. Plus, each set is designed to be  shared by up to two students at a time.

SPIKE Essential is part of  the new LEGO Learning System, a system of STEAM learning with solutions  that work together to deliver engaging, hands-on and playful learning experiences to support every student  on their learning journey. Click the link in the description to learn  more about how LEGO Education solutions can engage all learners, build their confidence,  and spark a lifelong love of learning. And check out this week’s episode of SciShow Kids to see LEGO SPIKE Essential in action! [♪ OUTRO].