In a psychological experiment by the scientists at Cambridge University, Eurasian jays — birds of the crow family — turned out to be less likely to be deceived by magic tricks that successfully deceived human participants. Eurasian jays are capable of using trickery to keep other animals away from their food stores. These birds are found in many regions of India, Europe and North Africa. Scientists were using tricks to understand the perception of these birds that are known for their intelligence. Well-known magic tricks work by exploiting the blind spots in the spectators’ brain.
Some famous magic tricks, capable of deceiving humans, are Palming — magician hides an object in its palm while displaying a transfer, French Drop — magician makes it look like she is dropping an object from one hand to another, and Fast Pass — magician transfers an object from one hand to another so fast that the viewer loses track.
Researchers trained the birds to look for a food item as a treat and then performed these magic tricks using the treat to test birds’ perceptual blind spots. After experimenting with the birds, researchers tested human beings with the same tricks. They found that the birds performed significantly better than humans in seeing through palming and french drops. However, both scored equally in detecting or being deceived by a fast pass.
According to the study that was led by Elias Garcia-Pelegrin and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, jays performed better because, unlike humans, they relied more on observable motion than expected motion. In their earlier research, Garcia-Pelegrin and her team had proposed to use magic tricks to test blind spots in animals. In research that was published in September 2020, they proposed that if an animal gets a magic trick, it must have some understanding of how the world works. Therefore, how animals interact with magic tricks can help scientists explore a lot of possibilities in explaining how their brains work.