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Two-item same-different concept learning in pigeons


We report the first successful demonstration of a simultaneous, two-item same-different (S/D) discrimination by 6 pigeons, in which nonpictorial color and shape stimuli were used. This study was conducted because the majority of recently successful demonstrations of S/D discrimination in pigeons have employed displays with more than two items. Two pairs of stimulus items were simultaneously presented on a touch screen equipped computer monitor. Pigeons were reinforced for consistently pecking at either the same (i.e., identical) or the different (i.e., nonidentical) pair of items. These pairs were created from combinations of simple colored shapes drawn from a pool of six colors and six shapes. After acquiring the discrimination with item pairs that differed redundantly in both the shape and the color dimensions, the pigeons were tested for transfer to items that varied in only one of these dimensions. Although both dimensions contributed to the discrimination, greater control was exhibited by the color dimension. Most important, the discrimination transferred in tests with novel colored, shaped, and sized items, suggesting that the mechanisms involved were not stimulus specific but were more generalized in nature. These results suggest that the capacity to judge S/D relations is present in pigeons even when only two stimuli are used to implement this contrast.

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