Matching of numerical symbols with number of responses by pigeons
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Pigeons were trained to peck a certain number of times on a key that displayed one of several possible numerical symbols. The particular symbol displayed indicated the number of times that the key had to be pecked. The pigeons signalled the completion of the requirement by operating a separate key. They received a food reward for correct response sequences and time-out penalties for incorrect response sequences. In the first experiment nine pigeons learned to allocate 1, 2, 3 or 4 pecks to the corresponding numerosity symbols s1, s2, s3 and s4 with levels of accuracy well above chance. The second experiment explored the maximum set of numerosities that the pigeons were capable of handling concurrently. Six of the pigeons coped with an s1–s5 task and four pigeons even managed an s1–s6 task with performances that were significantly above chance. Analysis of response times suggested that the pigeons were mainly relying on a number-based rather than on a time-based strategy.
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