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Behav Processes. 2010 Feb;83(2):179-82. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2009.12.004. Epub 2009 Dec 5.

The formation and execution of sequential plans in pigeons (Columba livia).

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Department of Psychology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.


The ability to formulate and execute plans is a hallmark of human behaviour. Here we present evidence of planning in pigeons. Subjects were trained to respond to three geometric shapes in a prescribed order. Probe trials were then introduced in which, following a response to the first item, the on screen positions of the second and third item were exchanged. If subjects were planning a sequence of responses at the outset of a trial, we would expect reaction time to the second item to increase, reflecting the updating of a predetermined response plan. This is exactly what was found. Subjects also responded correctly on trials in which, following a response to the first item, stimuli were covered by opaque white squares. Together these results suggest pigeons are able to plan one step ahead on the simultaneous chaining paradigm.

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