Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Pigeons peck for computerized treat

Date:
May 29, 2013
Source:
University of Iowa
Summary:
New research show pigeons can make informed choices, and use a computerized touch-screen as well.

Birds looked at a computer touch screen with square buttons connected to either dishes that appeared to be full or empty. If the bird pecked the correct button on the screen, the virtual full bowl would move closer, ultimately to the point where the pigeon would be rewarded with real food.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Edward Wasserman

Go to about any public square, and you see pigeons pecking at the ground, always in search of crumbs dropped by a passerby. While the pigeons' scavenging may seem random, new research by psychologists at the University of Iowa suggest the birds are capable of making highly intelligent choices, sometimes with problem-solving skills to match.

The study by Edward Wasserman and colleagues centered on the "string task," a longstanding, standard test of intelligence that involves attaching a treat to one of two strings and seeing if the participant (human or animal) can reel in that treat by pulling the correct string.

In this case, the UI researchers took the pigeons into the digital age: The birds looked at a computer touch screen with square buttons connected to either dishes that appeared to be full or empty. If the bird pecked the correct button on the screen, the virtual full bowl would move closer, ultimately to the point where the pigeon would be rewarded with real food.

"The pigeons proved that they could indeed learn this task with a variety of different string configurations -- even those that involved crossed strings, the most difficult of all configurations to learn with real strings," says Wasserman, Stuit Professor of Experimental Psychology and the corresponding author of the study published in the journal Animal Cognition.

In experiments, the authors found the pigeons chose correctly between 74 percent and 90 percent of the time across three varieties of string tests. The breadth of the string tests, coupled with the pigeons' accuracy, suggest that virtual string tests can be used in place of conventional string experiments -- and with other animal species as well, the researchers say.

In videosthat the researchers took, the pigeons in many instances scan and bob their heads along the string "often looking toward and pecking at the dish as its moves down the screen," the authors write, suggesting the birds noted the connection between the virtual strings and the dishes.

"We believe that our virtual string task represents a promising innovation in comparative and developmental psychology," Wasserman says. "It may permit expanded exploration of other species and variables which would otherwise be unlikely because of inadequacies of conventional string task methodology or sensorimotor limitations of the organisms."

"These results not only testify to the power and versatility of our computerized string task, but they also demonstrate that pigeons can concurrently contend with a broad range of demanding patterned-string problems, thereby eliminating many alternative interpretations of their behavior," the authors write.

The UI psychology department funded the study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Iowa. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Edward A. Wasserman, Yasuo Nagasaka, Leyre Castro, Stephen J. Brzykcy. Pigeons learn virtual patterned-string problems in a computerized touch screen environment. Animal Cognition, 2013; DOI: 10.1007/s10071-013-0608-0

Cite This Page:

University of Iowa. "Pigeons peck for computerized treat." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 May 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130529121105.htm>.
University of Iowa. (2013, May 29). Pigeons peck for computerized treat. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130529121105.htm
University of Iowa. "Pigeons peck for computerized treat." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130529121105.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) Police in Gary, Indiana are using cadaver dogs to search for more victims after a suspected serial killer confessed to killing at least seven women. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Visitors to Belgrade zoo meet a pair of three-week-old lion cubs for the first time. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins