True grit in pigeons (#367)
Grit is defined as the ability to persevere in order to achieve a long-term goal. Grit is increasingly being recognized as an important trait due to the fact it predicts success and achievement in a number of domains. For example, grittier competitors at the 2005 Scripps National Spelling Bee outranked their less gritty peers. Importantly grit can be cultivated, in part, by taking on more and more challenging tasks. In the current study we demonstrate grit can also be cultivated in pigeon’s. Specifically, over a two year period, we cultivated pigeon’s grit by training them on increasingly difficult versions of the serial-order task. Following this preliminary training, subjects were presented with several 4-item lists and required to learn them through the process of trial and error. This is an extremely difficult task in which chance responding would yield only a 0.9% success rate. Surprisingly, the majority of subjects demonstrated true grit, initially persisting through multiple sessions without any rewards before eventually mastering the lists. We discuss these findings in relation to grit research with humans and the potential of investigating trait-level individual differences in grit between pigeons.