Bird-Brained Illusionists

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Science  20 Jan 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6066, pp. 292-293
DOI: 10.1126/science.1217451

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Our perceptual experience is constructed from the cues extracted about the content of the world by our senses. In vision, any source of image variation that is predictive of a property about the world is a potential cue. But which cues are actually used, and how do they affect our experience and behavior? If we understand what cues are used to make inferences about the world, then we should be able to manipulate our perceptual experience by manipulating the cue, even if—and most impressively when—this manipulation gives rise to experiences that appear to differ from physical reality (1). On page 335 of this issue, Kelley and Endler (2) show that humans may not be alone in this perceptual manipulation game. In terms of concrete rewards, we may even be trumped by the architectural craftsmanship of male great bowerbirds.