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True Imitative Learning in Pigeons

Thomas R. Zentall, Jennifer E. Sutton and Lou M. Sherburne
Psychological Science
Vol. 7, No. 6 (Nov., 1996), pp. 343-346
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40062977
Page Count: 4
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True Imitative Learning in Pigeons
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Abstract

Providing evidence for imitative learning in animals has been made difficult by the need to control for a number of possible nonimitation accounts (e.g., mere presence of another animal, attention drawn to a location, attention drawn to an object being manipulated) that often have not been recognized in previous research. In the present experiment, we used a version of the two-action method in which a treadle could be operated by a pigeon in one of two distinctive ways: with its beak by pecking or with its foot by stepping. What is unique in this experiment is not only the distinct response topographies, but also that both responses have the same effect on the environment (depression of the treadle followed by food reward). When pigeons that had observed one of the two response topographies were given access to the treadle, a significant correspondence was found between the topography of the observers' responses and that of their respective demonstrators' responses.

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