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Behav Brain Res. 2003 Oct 17;145(1-2):161-9.

The effect of cumulative experience on the use of elemental and configural visual discrimination strategies in honeybees.

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Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition Animale, Université Paul-Sabatier-CNRS, 118 Route de Narbonne, 31062 Toulouse cedex 4, France.


We addressed the question of whether the amount of individual experience determines the use of elemental or configural visual discrimination strategies in free-flying honeybees Apis mellifera. We trained bees to fly into a Y-maze to collect sucrose solution on a rewarded stimulus presented in one of the arms of the maze. Stimuli were colour disks, violet (V), green (G) or yellow (Y), which were of equal psychophysical salience for honeybees. Training followed an A+, BC+ design, followed by an AC versus BC test. Training consisted of 6 (3 A+ and 3 BC+), 20 (10 A+ and 10 BC+) or 40 (20 A+ and 20 BC+) acquisition trials. Elemental models of compound processing predict a preference for the non-trained stimulus AC while configural models predict a preference for the trained stimulus BC. Our results show that increasing the number of acquisition trials results in a change of the internal representation of stimuli. After six training trials, bees favoured an elemental strategy and preferred AC to BC during the tests. Generally, increasing the number of training trials resulted in an increase of the choice of BC. Thus, short training favoured processing of the compound as the sum of its elements (elemental account) while long training favoured its processing as being different from the sum of its elements (configural account). Additionally, we observed that the change in stimulus processing was also influenced by stimulus similarity. Colour perceptual similarity favoured configural processing with increasing experience.

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