How Occam's Razor Is Sometimes Dulled: The Story of Birdsong and Braininess

62:28 Minutes

October 15: Twenty years ago, Dr. Stephen Nowicki and his team proposed a hypothesis on birdsong that has since been supported by data from labs around the world. The "developmental stress hypothesis" suggests that song serves as an indicator of male quality. Males that fare better in the face of developmental stress (1) can invest more resources on brain development, thus optimizing song learning, and (2) are thus likely to be the best mates in other ways. These findings led to a second hypothesis that seemed so intuitive and simple, it just had to be true: better singers must, in general, be smarter. But experiments told a different story and the team's hypothesis was crushed. Join Steve as he discusses the difficulty of giving up a prized hypothesis in the face of contradicting data.