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J Comp Psychol. 2003 Dec;117(4):355-62.

A gray seal's (Halichoerus grypus) responses to experimenter-given pointing and directional cues.

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  • 1School of Biology, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, United Kingdom.


A gray seal (Halichoerus grypus) was trained to touch a target on its left or right by responding to pointing signals. The authors then tested whether the seal would be able to generalize spontaneously to altered signals. It responded correctly to center pointing and head turning, center upper body turning, and off-center pointing but not to head turning and eye movements alone. The seal also responded correctly to brief ipsilateral and contralateral points from center and lateral positions. Pointing gestures did not cause the seal to select an object placed centrally behind it. Like many animals in similar studies, this gray seal probably did not understand the referential character of these gestures but rather used signal generalization and experience from initial operant conditioning to solve these tasks.

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