Researchers, led by Dr Elliot Ludvig of the University of Warwick's Department of Psychology, conducted tests that found that both gamblers and pigeons were 35 percent more likely to gamble for high-value than low-value rewards.
The test results show the important role that memories of previous biggest wins and losses play when we make risky gambling decisions, researchers said.
"Both humans and pigeons were shown to be less risk averse for high rewards then they were for low rewards and this is linked to our past memories and experiences of making risky decisions," said Ludvig.
"When people gamble, they often rely on past experiences with risk and rewards to make decisions," Ludvig said.
"What we found in this study is that both pigeons used these past experiences in very similar ways to guide their future gambling decisions, any big wins we've had in the past are memorable and stand-out when we are making our decision to gamble again," Ludvig added.
Despite humans having a greater mental capacity than pigeons, humans and pigeons react in similar ways when faced with risky decisions because equivalent mental processes are driving their behaviour, Ludvig said.
"Humans and pigeons are equally influenced by the biggest wins and losses that they have previously encountered," Ludvig said.
"Birds are distantly related to humans, yet we still share the same basic psychology that drives risk-taking. This may be due to a shared common ancestry or similar evolutionary pressures," Ludvig said.
The study was published in the journal Biology Letters.

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