Midsession reversal learning by pigeons: Effect on accuracy of increasing the number of stimuli associated with one of the alternatives

  • Thomas R. ZentallEmail author
  • Daniel N. Peng
  • Dalton C. House
  • Ryan Yadav


The midsession reversal task involves a simultaneous discrimination in which choice of one stimulus (S1) is correct for the first 40 trials and choice of the other stimulus (S2) is correct for the last 40 trials of each 80-trial session. When pigeons are trained on the midsession reversal task, they appear to use the passage of time from the start of the session as a cue to reverse. As the reversal approaches, they begin to make anticipatory errors, choosing S2 early, and following the reversal they make perseverative errors, continuing to choose S1. Recent research suggests that anticipatory errors can be reduced (while not increasing perseverative errors) by reducing the probability of reinforcement for correct S2 choices from 100% to 20%. A similar effect can be found by increasing the response requirement for choice of S2 from one peck to ten pecks. In the present experiments, we asked if a similar effect could be attained by increasing the number of stimuli that, over trials, could serve as S2. Instead, in both experiments, we found that increasing the number of S2 stimuli actually increased the number of anticipatory errors. Several interpretations of this result are provided, including the possibility that attention to the variable S2 stimuli may have interfered with attention to the S1 stimulus.


Midsession reversal Attention Stimulus variability Inhibition Pigeons 


Open Practices Statement

The data and materials for both experiments are available from the first author.


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas R. Zentall
    • 1
    Email author
  • Daniel N. Peng
    • 1
  • Dalton C. House
    • 1
  • Ryan Yadav
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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