The Psychological Record

, Volume 64, Issue 3, pp 403–413 | Cite as

Behavioral History and Pigeons’ “Guiding Cues” Performance

Original Article


Response-sequence learning is often studied by manipulating consequences for sequence completion. Results of research evaluating how changes in discriminative stimuli disrupt the accuracy of response sequences suggest that transitions to reversed but highly predictive discriminative stimuli are more disruptive than the removal of discriminative stimuli. Two experiments assessed effects of changing discriminative stimuli on response-sequence accuracy while reinforcement remained contingent on a left-peck, right-peck response sequence. Initially, pigeons were trained on the response sequence in which the S+ key was illuminated red and the S- key was illuminated white. For all conditions of both experiments, the “accurate” response sequence that led to food was the same, but the way the accurate sequence was signaled sometimes differed. In Experiment 1, after training, discriminative stimuli were either removed (by lighting both keys white) or reversed. Accuracy was lower when discriminative stimuli were reversed than when they were removed. Experiment 2 showed that after training with discriminative stimuli, a history of reinforcement without discriminative stimuli was sufficient for the response sequence to emerge at high levels of accuracy when the discriminative stimuli were reversed. Results suggest a parsimonious explanation for why highly predictive discriminative stimuli sometimes fail to control behavior based on behavioral history.


Feature-positive effect S-R compatibility Motor skill learning Stimulus control Behavior chain Pigeons 


  1. Bachá-Méndez, G., Reid, A. K., & Mendoza-Soylovna, A. (2007). Resurgence of integrated behavioral units. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 87, 5–24.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Brown-Su, A. M., Matzel, L. D., Gordon, E. L., & Miller, R. R. (1986). Malleability of conditioned associations: path dependence. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 12, 420–427.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Fitts, P. M., & Seeger, C. M. (1953). S-R compatibility: spatial characteristics of stimulus and response codes. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 46, 199–210.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Fox, A. E., & Kyonka, E. G. E. (2013). Pigeon responding on fixed-interval and response-initiated fixed-interval schedules. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 100, 187–197.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Gluck, M. A., Mercado, E., & Myers, C. E. (2008). Learning and memory: From brain to behavior. New York: Worth.Google Scholar
  6. Hearst, E. (1991). Psychology and nothing. American Scientist, 79, 432–443.Google Scholar
  7. Hommel, B. (1995). Stimulus-response compatibility and the Simon effect: toward an empirical clarification. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 21, 764–775.Google Scholar
  8. Hommel, B. (2011). The Simon effect as tool and heuristic. Acta Psychologica, 136, 189–202.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Jenkins, H. M., & Sainsbury, R. S. (1969). The development of stimulus control through differential reinforcement. In N. J. Mackintosh & W. K. Honig (Eds.), Fundamental issues in associative learning (pp. 123–161). Halifax: Dalhousie University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Jenkins, H. M., & Sainsbury, R. S. (1970). Discrimination learning with the distinctive feature on positive or negative trials. In D. Mostofsky (Ed.), Attention: Contemporary theory and analysis (pp. 239–273). New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.Google Scholar
  11. Kiernan, D., Ray, M., & Welsh, T. N. (2012). Inverting the joint Simon effect by intention. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 19, 914–920.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Kyonka, E. G. E., & Grace, R. C. (2007). Rapid acquisition of choice and timing in pigeons. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 33, 392–408.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Kyonka, E. G. E., & Grace, R. C. (2008). Rapid acquisition of preference in concurrent chains when alternatives differ on multiple dimension of reinforcement. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 89, 49–69.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Lattal, K. A. (1975). Reinforcement contingencies as discriminative stimuli. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 23, 241–246.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Lotz, A., Uengoer, M., Koenig, S., Pearce, J. M., & Lachnit, H. (2012). An exploration of the feature-positive effect in adult humans. Learning & Behavior, 40, 222–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Miller, R. R., Barnet, R. C., & Grahame, N. J. (1995). Assessment of the Rescorla-Wagner model. Psychological Bulletin, 17, 363–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Nallan, G. B., Miller, J. S., McCoy, D. F., Taylor, R. T., & Serwatka, J. (1984). Transfer effects in feature-positive and feature-negative learning by pigeons. American Journal of Psychology, 97, 509–518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Proctor, R. W., & Reeve, T. G. (1990). Stimulus-response compatibility: An integrated perspective. Amsterdam: North-Holland.Google Scholar
  19. Reed, P., Schachtman, T. R., & Hall, G. (1991). Effect of signaled reinforcement on the formation of behavioral units. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 17, 147–162.Google Scholar
  20. Reid, A. K., Chadwick, C. Z., Dunham, M., & Miller, A. (2001). The development of functional response units: the role of demarcating stimuli. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 76, 303–320.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Reid, A. K., Nill, C. A., & Getz, B. R. (2010). Changes in stimulus control during guided skill learning in rats. Behavioural Processes, 84, 511–515.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Reid, A. K., Rapport, H. F., & Le, T. (2013). Why don’t guiding cues always guide in behavior chains? Learning & Behavior, 41, 402–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Reid, A.K., Folks, N., & Hardy, J. (2014). On the dynamics of stimulus control during guided skill learning in nonhumans. Behavioural Processes. doi:10.1016/j.beproc.2014.01.017.
  24. Sainsbury, R. S. (1973). Discrimination learning utilizing positive or negative cues. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 27, 46–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Schmidt, R. A. (1975). A schema theory of discrete motor skill learning. Psychological Review, 82, 225–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Schneider, S. M., & Davison, M. (2005). Demarcated response sequences and the generalized matching law. Behavioural Processes, 70, 51–61.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Schneider, S. M., & Morris, E. K. (1992). Sequences of spaced responses: behavioral units and the role of contiguity. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 58, 537–555.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Shimp, C. P. (1981). The local organization of behavior: discrimination of and memory for simple behavior patterns. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 36, 303–315.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Shimp, C. P. (1982). On metaknowledge in the pigeon: an organism’s knowledge about its own behavior. Animal Learning and Behavior, 10, 358–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Simon, J. R. (1969). Reactions toward the source of stimulation. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 81, 174–176.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Urcuioli, P. J., Vu, K.-P. L., & Proctor, R. W. (2005). A Simon effect in pigeons. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 134, 93–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Association of Behavior Analysis International 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyWofford CollegeSpartanburgUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologySt. Lawrence UniversityCantonUSA

Personalised recommendations