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Anim Behav. 1999 Feb;57(2):315-324.

Pattern learning by honeybees: conditioning procedure and recognition strategy.

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Institut für Neurobiologie, Freie Universität Berlin


In recognizing a pattern, honeybees Apis mellifera, may focus either on its ventral frontal part, or on the whole frontal image. We asked whether the conditioning procedure used to train the bees to a pattern determines the recognition strategy employed. Bees were trained with the same patterns presented vertically on the back walls of a Y maze. Conditioning was either absolute, that is, bees should learn to choose a rewarded pattern when there is no alternative, or differential, that is, bees should learn to choose a rewarded pattern that is paired with a different, nonrewarded one. Bees used different pattern recognition strategies depending on the conditioning procedure: absolute conditioning restricted recognition to the lower half whilst differential conditioning extended it to the whole pattern. Bees trained with absolute conditioning saw and learned the features of the upper part of the trained patterns, but assigned more weight to the lower part. Bees trained with differential conditioning learned not only the features of the reinforced stimulus in an excitatory way, but also those of the nonreinforced one in an inhibitory way. Thus, conditioning tasks that involve not only excitatory acquisition of the conditioned stimulus per se, but also discrimination of nonreinforced stimuli, result in an increase in the visual field assigned to the recognition task. Conditioning tasks that involve only excitatory acquisition of the rewarded stimulus result in a higher weighting of the lower pattern half and thus in a more reduced field assigned to the recognition task. This difference may reflect that existing between a conditioned and an incidental behavioural modification.


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