Animal Cognition

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 21–34 | Cite as

Labeling and family resemblance in the discrimination of polymorphous categories by pigeons

  • Elizabeth Nicholls
  • Catriona M. E. Ryan
  • Catherine M. L. Bryant
  • Stephen E. G. Lea
Original Paper

Abstract

Two experiments examined whether pigeons discriminate polymorphous categories on the basis of a single highly predictive feature or overall similarity. In the first experiment, pigeons were trained to discriminate between categories of photographs of complex real objects. Within these pictures, single features had been manipulated to produce a highly salient texture cue. Either the picture or the texture provided a reliable cue for discrimination during training, but in probe tests, the picture and texture cues were put into conflict. Some pigeons showed a significant tendency to discriminate on the basis of the picture cue (overall similarity or family resemblance), whereas others appeared to rely on the manipulated texture cue. The second experiment used artificial polymorphous categories in which one dimension of the stimulus provided a completely reliable cue to category membership, whereas three other dimensions provided cues that were individually unreliable but collectively provided a completely reliable basis for discrimination. Most pigeons came under the control of the reliable cue rather than the unreliable cues. A minority, however, came under the control of single dimensions from the unreliable set. We conclude that cue salience can be more important than cue reliability in determining what features will control behavior when multiple cues are available.

Keywords

Pigeon Category discrimination Feature learning Family resemblance Labeling Salience 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Nicholls
    • 1
  • Catriona M. E. Ryan
    • 1
  • Catherine M. L. Bryant
    • 1
  • Stephen E. G. Lea
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Psychology, Washington Singer LaboratoriesUniversity of ExeterExeterUK

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