The Psychological Record

, Volume 67, Issue 4, pp 537–545 | Cite as

Cooperation and Metacontingency in Pigeons

  • Saulo Missiaggia VelascoEmail author
  • Marcelo Frota Lobato Benvenuti
  • Angelo A. S. Sampaio
  • Gerson Yukio Tomanari
Original Article


Three pairs of pigeons were exposed to a procedure that combined features of classic studies on social behavior (cooperation) and recent studies that were inspired by the notion of metacontingency. We examined interactions between simultaneous demands for behavior of individual pigeons and interlocked behaviors of pairs of pigeons. The pigeons worked face to face in an operant conditioning box that was divided by a transparent wall. Each side of the box had two horizontally aligned response keys on the floor. Working individually, each pigeon produced 3-s access to food (individual consequence). In a subsequent phase, if the pigeons coordinated their responses, then they could produce food for an additional 4 s (mutual consequence). Initially, the individual consequence was produced on more than 75% of the trials. The interlocking pattern that was required to produce mutual consequences in the subsequent phase was observed on less than 50% of the trials for all pairs of pigeons. Adding the mutual contingency of reinforcement led to (a) a slight reduction of the production of individual and mutual consequences without any coordinated response pattern; (b) the maintenance of high percentages of individual consequences with a concomitant increase in mutual consequences; and (c) for only one subject, an increase in the production of mutual consequences that were accompanied by a decrease in the rate of individual consequences. We discuss the ways in which cooperation and metacontingency experiments should be integrated, the ways in which interlocking behaviors of nonhuman animals can be generated, and the role of verbal behavior in the emergence of cooperation and cultural processes.


Social behavior Cooperation Mutual reinforcement Cultural selection Metacontingency Pigeons 



This research was supported by a postdoctoral scholarship (Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo [FAPESP]) awarded to Saulo Missiaggia Velasco and by research support (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico [CNPq]) awarded to Gerson Yukio Tomanari. During article preparation, Angelo A. S. Sampaio was a student at the University of São Paulo with a doctoral scholarship (CNPq). Marcelo Frota Lobato Benvenuti and Gerson Yukio Tomanari are members of the National Institute of Science and Technology on Behavior, Cognition, and Teaching, supported by FAPESP (Grant 08/57705-8) and CNPq (Grant 573972/2008-7). The authors wish to thank Artur Nagae (at that time, an undergraduate student with a scientific initiation scholarship from FAPESP) for programming the software used to collect data and for helping with data collection.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All of the animal procedures were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution at which the study was conducted.

Conflict of Interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there are no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Saulo Missiaggia Velasco
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marcelo Frota Lobato Benvenuti
    • 2
    • 3
  • Angelo A. S. Sampaio
    • 2
    • 4
  • Gerson Yukio Tomanari
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Centro Paradigma de Ciências e Tecnologia do ComportamentoSão PauloBrazil
  2. 2.Instituto de PsicologiaUniversidade de São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  3. 3.Instituto Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia sobre Comportamento, Cognição e EnsinoSão CarlosBrazil
  4. 4.Colegiado de PsicologiaUniversidade Federal do Vale do São FranciscoPetrolinaBrazil

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