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J Exp Psychol Anim Behav Process. 2011 Apr;37(2):175-88. doi: 10.1037/a0022105.

Velocity-based motion categorization by pigeons.

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Department of Psychology, Tufts University, 490 Boston Ave, Medford, MA 002155, USA.


To examine if animals could learn action-like categorizations in a manner similar to noun-based categories, eight pigeons were trained to categorize rates of object motion. Testing 40 different objects in a go/no-go discrimination, pigeons were first trained to discriminate between fast and slow rates of object rotation around their central y-axis. They easily learned this velocity discrimination and transferred it to novel objects and rates. This discrimination also transferred to novel types of motions including the other two axes of rotation and two new translations around the display. Comparable tests with rapid and slow changes in the objects' size, color, and shape failed to support comparable transfer. This difference in discrimination transfer between motion-based and property-based changes suggests the pigeons had learned motion concept rather than one based on change per se. The results provide evidence that pigeons can acquire an understanding of motion-based actions, at least with regard to the property of object velocity. This may be similar to our use of verbs and adverbs to categorize different classes of behavior or motion (e.g., walking, jogging, or running slow vs. fast).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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