Can Imitation in Pigeons be Explained by Local Enhancement Together with Trial-and-Error Learning? Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Zentall Sutton and Sherburne (1996) reported that pigeons observing a conspecific demonstrator either step on or peck at a treadle to obtain food subsequently showed a significant tendency to manipulate the treadle as had their demonstrator Zentall et al suggested this finding showed observer pigeons had learned by imitation to peck at or step on the treadle However, the same result might have been obtained if pigeons had learned to step on the treadle by trial and error, and pigeons exposed to a treadle-pecking demonstrator had come to peck at the treadle as a result of nonimitative social-learning processes such as local enhancement or contagion Here we report the results for two control groups showing that pigeons do not learn to step on or peck at a treadle for food reward unless they observe a relevant demonstrator These results considerably strengthen the original conclusion Future research using the two action method to demonstrate imitative learning should include similar controls

publication date

  • November 1997