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Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition - Vol 43, Iss 2

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Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition® publishes experimental and theoretical studies concerning all aspects of animal behavior processes. Studies of associative, nonassociative, cognitive, perceptual, and motivational processes are welcome.
Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association
  • Rapid visual processing of picture stimuli by pigeons in an RSVP (rapid serial visual presentation) task.
    Three experiments that were carried out in series with 5 pigeons used novel training methods to investigate the rapid visual processing of picture stimuli by pigeons. On each trial, a sequence containing 1 of 2 bird pictures (the target) and nontarget bird pictures (the distractors) was presented. After the termination of the last item in the sequence, the pigeons were required to choose 1 of 2 colored squares corresponding to the target presented in the preceding sequence. The pigeons learned the task with 2-item lists (1 target and 1 distractor) in Experiment1 and with 3-item lists (1 target and 2 distractors) in Experiment 2. The pigeons showed better performance when the target appeared last in the sequence (a recency effect) and poorer performance the shorter the item duration. In Experiment 3, the pigeons were tested with 3-item lists, but on half the trials 2 distractors were replaced with blanks; for example, a target-distractor-distractor trial became a target-blank-blank trial and performances on these trials were compared. When the item duration was 80 ms or greater, omission of the distractors did not have an effect of increasing performance, suggesting that the recency effect was determined by simple passage of time. With the item durations less than 80 ms, the distractors interfered with memory of the target. When the distractors were omitted, performance remained slightly above chance even at the shortest, 17-ms, item duration. These findings indicate that pigeons are equipped with visual mechanisms that enable them to process visual stimuli rapidly. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Chrysippus’s pigeon: Exclusion-based responding in an avian model.
    Inference by exclusion can be exhibited by deductively responding to new stimuli that are presented in the context of familiar stimuli. We investigated exclusion-based responding in pigeons using a 2-alternative forced-choice discrimination task. In Phase 1, pigeons learned to associate 2 stimuli (A and B) with Response 1 and 2 stimuli (C and D) with Response 2. Following successful acquisition of these stimulus–response pairings, pigeons advanced to Phase 2, in which stimuli A and B were now reassigned to Response 2. Based on their Phase 1 training, pigeons should initially choose Response 1 when presented with A and B in Phase 2 (this response is now incorrect, but the birds would not yet have had the opportunity to learn the new stimulus–response associations). Also, in Phase 2, stimuli E and F—new stimuli replacing stimuli C and D—were concurrently presented and assigned to Response 1. Without prior training, pigeons’ initial responding to E and F in Phase 2 should be at chance. However, if the pigeons were to apply an exclusion rule (stimuli E and F stand in opposition to stimuli A and B), then they might initially choose Response 2 for new stimuli E and F because they are concurrently choosing Response 1 for stimuli A and B. If that is the case, then choice accuracy for stimuli E and F should also be below chance. Indeed, our pigeons responded at reliably below chance levels to stimuli E and F, consistent with their exhibiting an exclusion rule–based strategy, which could actually arise from a more mechanical underlying process such as acquired equivalence formation. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Studies of learned helplessness in honey bees (Apis mellifera ligustica).
    The current study reports 2 experiments investigating learned helplessness in the honey bee (Apis mellifera ligustica). In Experiment 1, we used a traditional escape method but found the bees’ activity levels too high to observe changes due to treatment conditions. The bees were not able to learn in this traditional escape procedure; thus, such procedures may be inappropriate to study learned helplessness in honey bees. In Experiment 2, we used an alternative punishment, or passive avoidance, method to investigate learned helplessness. Using a master and yoked design where bees were trained as either master or yoked and tested as either master or yoked, we found that prior training with unavoidable and inescapable shock in the yoked condition interfered with avoidance and escape behavior in the later master condition. Unlike control bees, learned helplessness bees failed to restrict their movement to the safe compartment following inescapable shock. Unlike learned helplessness studies in other animals, no decrease in general activity was observed. Furthermore, we did not observe a “freezing” response to inescapable aversive stimuli—a phenomenon, thus far, consistently observed in learned helplessness tests with other species. The bees, instead, continued to move back and forth between compartments despite punishment in the incorrect compartment. These findings suggest that, although traditional escape methods may not be suitable, honey bees display learned helplessness in passive avoidance procedures. Thus, regardless of behavioral differences from other species, honey bees can be a unique invertebrate model organism for the study of learned helplessness. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Familiarity-based stimulus generalization of conditioned suppression.
    We report that stimulus novelty/familiarity is able to modulate stimulus generalization and discuss the theoretical implications of novelty/familiarity coding. Rats in Skinner boxes received clicker → shock pairings before generalization testing to a tone. Before clicker training, different groups of rats received preexposure treatments designed to systematically modulate the clicker and the tone’s novelty and familiarity. Rats whose preexposure matched novelty/familiarity (i.e., either both or neither clicker and tone were preexposed) showed enhanced suppression to the tone relative to rats whose preexposure mixed novelty/familiarity (i.e., only clicker or tone was preexposed). This was not the result of sensory preconditioning to clicker and tone. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Blocking of flavor-nausea learning by non-flavor cues: Assessment through orofacial reactivity responses.
    We investigated, using orofacial reactivity assessment, whether nonflavor context cues can elicit conditioned aversive reactions, and also whether context cues interfere, through blocking, with the reduction in taste palatability during taste aversion conditioning. Experiment 1 showed that a context previously paired with LiCl evoked aversive orofacial reactions, and also attenuated the reduction in palatability of a saccharin solution which was paired with LiCl in that context. In Experiment 2, this blocking effect was abolished when the rats were given nonreinforced exposure to the previously LiCl-paired context (context extinction) before aversive conditioning of the saccharin in compound with the context. These results confirm that context stimuli can elicit conditioned aversive reactions in the absence of any flavor component, and demonstrate that context cues can interfere with the affective aspects of taste aversion learning. Thus nonflavor cues appear to engage the same processes as taste cues in aversion learning. These results are consistent with the idea that taste aversion learning is governed by general associative mechanisms and the special properties of nausea, rather than by a selective mechanism for poison-avoidance. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Causal superlearning arising from interactions among cues.
    Superconditioning refers to supernormal responding to a conditioned stimulus (CS) that sometimes occurs in classical conditioning when the CS is paired with an unconditioned stimulus (US) in the presence of a conditioned inhibitor for that US. In the present research, we conducted 4 experiments to investigate causal superlearning, a phenomenon in human causal learning analogous to superconditioning. Experiment 1 demonstrated superlearning relative to appropriate control conditions. Experiment 2 showed that superlearning wanes when the number of cues used in an experiment is relatively large. Experiment 3 determined that even when relatively many cues are used, superlearning can be observed provided testing is conducted immediately after training, which is problematic for explanations by most contemporary learning theories. Experiment 4 found that ratings of a superlearning cue are weaker than those to the training excitor which gives basis to the conditioned inhibitor-like causal preventor used during causal superlearning training. This is inconsistent with the prediction by propositional reasoning accounts of causal cue competition, but is readily explained by associative learning models. In sum, the current experiments revealed some weaknesses of both the associative and propositional reasoning models with respect to causal superlearning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Assessing the acquisition of anticipatory responding in the pigeon using reaction time.
    We report a novel method for investigating the acquisition of anticipatory responding in the pigeon. Four pigeons (Columba livia) received food for pecking a starburst target stimulus displayed in the bottom-left or bottom-right portion of a computer screen. The target stimulus was preceded by 1 of 3 fractal images displayed in either the upper-left or upper-right portion of the screen: 1 of the fractals was perfectly correlated with the target appearing in the bottom-left, the second fractal was perfectly correlated with the target appearing in the bottom-right, and the third fractal was uncorrelated with the location of the target. The pigeons learned to anticipate the location of the upcoming target stimulus, because they were faster to peck the target stimulus on trials that involved a predictive fractal than on trials that involved a nonpredictive fractal. In a later phase, we reversed the signaled target location of each of the 2 predictive fractals. After an initial disruption in performance, the pigeons successfully learned the new stimulus assignments, exhibiting the same pattern of responding as during the initial training phase. Overall, the results document the utility of this novel training procedure and further underscore the role that associative processes play in anticipatory responding. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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