Animal Cognition

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 1007–1017 | Cite as

Generalization of visual regularities in newly hatched chicks (Gallus gallus)

  • Chiara SantolinEmail author
  • Orsola Rosa-Salva
  • Lucia Regolin
  • Giorgio Vallortigara
Original Paper


Evidence of learning and generalization of visual regularities in a newborn organism is provided in the present research. Domestic chicks have been trained to discriminate visual triplets of simultaneously presented shapes, implementing AAB versus ABA (Experiment 1), AAB versus ABB and AAB versus BAA (Experiment 2). Chicks distinguished pattern-following and pattern-violating novel test triplets in all comparisons, showing no preference for repetition-based patterns. The animals generalized to novel instances even when the patterns compared were not discriminable by the presence or absence of reduplicated elements or by symmetry (e.g., AAB vs. ABB). These findings represent the first evidence of learning and generalization of regularities at the onset of life in an animal model, revealing intriguing differences with respect to human newborns and infants. Extensive prior experience seems to be unnecessary to drive the process, suggesting that chicks are predisposed to detect patterns characterizing the visual world.


Regularities Generalization Newborn model Domestic chick 



GV was funded by an ERC Advanced Grant (PREMESOR ERC-2011-ADG_20110406). We give special thanks to Jenny Saffran for helpful suggestions on an early draft of this manuscript. We also thank Desiree Sartori and Anna Broseghini for invaluable help provided with chick testing and care.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

The experiments reported here comply with the current Italian and European Community laws for the ethical treatment for animals and have been approved by University of Padova Ethical Committee (Protocol No. 100845; 23/11/2013).

Supplementary material

10071_2016_1005_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1068 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chiara Santolin
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  • Orsola Rosa-Salva
    • 2
  • Lucia Regolin
    • 1
  • Giorgio Vallortigara
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of General PsychologyUniversity of PadovaPadovaItaly
  2. 2.CIMeC, Center for Mind-Brain SciencesUniversity of TrentoRoveretoItaly
  3. 3.Waisman CenterUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychology and Cognitive ScienceUniversity of TrentoRoveretoItaly

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