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Testing pigeon memory in a change detection task

Abstract

Six pigeons were trained in a change detection task with four colors. They were shown two colored circles on a sample array, followed by a test array with the color of one circle changed. The pigeons learned to choose the changed color and transferred their performance to four unfamiliar colors, suggesting that they had learned a generalized concept of color change. They also transferred performance to test delays several times their 50-msec training delay without prior delay training. The accurate delay performance of several seconds suggests that their change detection was memory based, as opposed to a perceptual attentional capture process. These experiments are the first to show that an animal species (pigeons, in this case) can learn a change detection task identical to ones used to test human memory, thereby providing the possibility of directly comparing short-term memory processing across species.

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Correspondence to Anthony A. Wright or Jeffrey S. Katz.

Additional information

This research was supported by NIH Grant MH-072616.

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Wright, A.A., S. Katz, J., Magnotti, J. et al. Testing pigeon memory in a change detection task. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 17, 243–249 (2010). https://doi.org/10.3758/PBR.17.2.243

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Keywords

  • Change Detection
  • Attentional Capture
  • Visual Working Memory
  • Test Array
  • Change Detection Task