Animal Cognition

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 271–279 | Cite as

Towards a “virtual pigeon”: A new technique for investigating avian social perception

  • Shigeru WatanabeEmail author
  • Nikolaus F. Troje
Original Article


The purpose of the present study is to examine the applicability of a computer-generated, virtual animal to study animal cognition. Pigeons were trained to discriminate between movies of a real pigeon and a rat. Then, they were tested with movies of the computer-generated (CG) pigeon. Subjects showed generalization to the CG pigeon, however, they also responded to modified versions in which the CG pigeon was showing impossible movement, namely hopping and walking without its head bobbing. Hence, the pigeons did not attend to these particular details of the display. When they were trained to discriminate between the normal and the modified version of the CG pigeon, they were able to learn the discrimination. The results of an additional partial occlusion test suggest that the subjects used head movement as a cue for the usual vs. unusual CG pigeon discrimination.


Liquid Crystal Display Zebra Finch Courtship Behavior Biological Motion Slide Projector 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was supported by the 21st Century Center Of Excellence Program (D-1) and the Volkswagen Foundation. We are also grateful to Alias|Wavefront who supplied us with a research donation of their software Maya. Treatment of the animals used in testing was in accordance with the Guidelines of Animal Experiments (Keio University).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyKeio UniversityTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada

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