Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Great minds think alike

02.04.2014

Study finds pigeons and other animals can place everyday things in categories like humans

Pinecone or pine nut? Friend or foe? Distinguishing between the two requires that we pay special attention to the telltale characteristics of each. And as it turns out, us humans aren't the only ones up to the task.

According to researchers at the University of Iowa, pigeons share our ability to place everyday things in categories. And, like people, they can hone in on visual information that is new or important and dismiss what is not.

"The basic concept at play is selective attention. That is, in a complex world, with its booming, buzzing confusion, we don't attend to all properties of our environment. We attend to those that are novel or relevant," says Edward Wasserman, UI psychology professor and secondary author on the paper, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition.

Selective attention has traditionally been viewed as unique to humans. But as UI research scientist and lead author of the study Leyre Castro explains, scientists now know that discerning one category from another is vital to survival.

"All animals in the wild need to distinguish what might be food from what might be poison, and, of course be able to single out predators from harmless creatures," she says.

More than that, other creatures seem to follow the same thought process humans do when it comes to making these distinctions. Castro and Wasserman's study reveals that learning about an object's relevant characteristics and using those characteristics to categorize it go hand-in-hand.

When observing pigeons, "We thought they would learn what was relevant (step one) and then learn the appropriate response (step two)," Wasserman explains. But instead, the researchers found that learning and categorization seemed to occur simultaneously in the brain.

To test how, and indeed whether, animals like pigeons use selective attention, Wasserman and Castro presented the birds with a touchscreen containing two sets of four computer-generated images—such as stars, spirals, and bubbles.

The pigeons had to determine what distinguished one set from the other. For example, did one set contain a star while the other contained bubbles?

By monitoring what images the pigeons pecked on the touchscreen, Wasserman and Castro were able to determine what the birds were looking at. Were they pecking at the relevant, distinguishing characteristics of each set—in this case the stars and the bubbles?

The answer was yes, suggesting that pigeons—like humans—use selective attention to place objects in appropriate categories. And according to the researchers, the finding can be extended to other animals like lizards and goldfish.

"Because a pigeon's beak is midway between its eyes, we have a pretty good idea that where it is looking is where it is pecking," Wasserman says. This could be true of any bird or fish or reptile.

"However, we can't assume our findings would hold true in an animal with appendages—such as arms—because their eyes can look somewhere other than where their hand or paw is touching," he explains.

###

The study, "Pigeons' Tracking of Relevant Attributes in Categorization Learning," was published in the April 2 print edition of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition. Funding was provided by the UI psychology department.

Amy Mattson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uiowa.edu

Further reports about: Cognition animals bubbles characteristics creatures explains eyes goldfish humans pigeons

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

nachricht Brain connectivity reveals hidden motives
04.03.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Nuclear Pores Captured on Film

Using an ultra fast-scanning atomic force microscope, a team of researchers from the University of Basel has filmed “living” nuclear pore complexes at work for the first time. Nuclear pores are molecular machines that control the traffic entering or exiting the cell nucleus. In their article published in Nature Nanotechnology, the researchers explain how the passage of unwanted molecules is prevented by rapidly moving molecular “tentacles” inside the pore.

Using high-speed AFM, Roderick Lim, Argovia Professor at the Biozentrum and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute of the University of Basel, has not only directly...

Im Focus: 2+1 is Not Always 3 - In the microworld unity is not always strength

If a person pushes a broken-down car alone, there is a certain effect. If another person helps, the result is the sum of their efforts. If two micro-particles are pushing another microparticle, however, the resulting effect may not necessarily be the sum their efforts. A recent study published in Nature Communications, measured this odd effect that scientists call “many body.”

In the microscopic world, where the modern miniaturized machines at the new frontiers of technology operate, as long as we are in the presence of two...

Im Focus: Tiny microbots that can clean up water

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute Stuttgart have developed self-propelled tiny ‘microbots’ that can remove lead or organic pollution from contaminated water.

Working with colleagues in Barcelona and Singapore, Samuel Sánchez’s group used graphene oxide to make their microscale motors, which are able to adsorb lead...

Im Focus: ORNL researchers discover new state of water molecule

Neutron scattering and computational modeling have revealed unique and unexpected behavior of water molecules under extreme confinement that is unmatched by any known gas, liquid or solid states.

In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory describe a new tunneling state of...

Im Focus: Bionic Lightweight Design researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute at Hannover Messe 2016

Honeycomb structures as the basic building block for industrial applications presented using holo pyramid

Researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) will introduce their latest developments in the field of bionic lightweight design at Hannover Messe from 25...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

The “AC21 International Forum 2016” is About to Begin

27.04.2016 | Event News

Soft switching combines efficiency and improved electro-magnetic compatibility

15.04.2016 | Event News

Grid-Supportive Buildings Give Boost to Renewable Energy Integration

12.04.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Expanding tropics pushing high altitude clouds towards poles, NASA study finds

06.05.2016 | Earth Sciences

IU-led study reveals new insights into light color sensing and transfer of genetic traits

06.05.2016 | Life Sciences

Thievish hoverfly steals prey from carnivorous sundews

06.05.2016 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>