Midsession reversals with pigeons: visual versus spatial discriminations and the intertrial interval
Discrimination reversal learning has been used as a measure of species flexibility in dealing with changes in reinforcement contingency. In the simultaneous-discrimination, midsession-reversal task, one stimulus (S1) is correct for the first half of the session, and the other stimulus (S2) is correct for the second half. After training, pigeons show a curious pattern of choices: They begin to respond to S2 well before the reversal point (i.e., they make anticipatory errors), and they continue to respond to S1 well after the reversal (i.e., they make perseverative errors). That is, pigeons appear to be using the passage of time or the number of trials into the session as a cue to reverse, and are less sensitive to the feedback at the point of reversal. To determine whether the nature of the discrimination or a failure of memory for the stimulus chosen on the preceding trial contributed to the pigeons’ less-than-optimal performance, we manipulated the nature of the discrimination (spatial or visual) and the duration of the intertrial interval (5.0 or 1.5 s), in order to determine the conditions under which pigeons would show efficient reversal learning. The major finding was that only when the discrimination was spatial and the intertrial interval was short did the pigeons perform optimally.
KeywordsDiscrimination learning Midsession reversal Spatial Visual Timing Intertrial interval Pigeons
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