Lateralized cognition: asymmetrical and complementary strategies of pigeons during discrimination of the "human concept"

Cognition. 2007 Aug;104(2):315-44. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2006.07.004. Epub 2006 Aug 14.


This study was aimed at revealing which cognitive processes are lateralized in visual categorizations of "humans" by pigeons. To this end, pigeons were trained to categorize pictures of humans and then tested binocularly or monocularly (left or right eye) on the learned categorization and for transfer to novel exemplars (Experiment 1). Subsequent tests examined whether they relied on memorized features or on a conceptual strategy, using stimuli composed of new combinations of familiar and novel humans and backgrounds (Experiment 2), whether the hemispheres processed global or local information, using pictures with different levels of scrambling (Experiment 3), and whether they attended to configuration, using distorted human figures (Experiment 4). The results suggest that the left hemisphere employs a category strategy and concentrates on local features, while the right hemisphere uses an exemplar strategy and relies on configuration. These cognitive dichotomies of the cerebral hemispheres are largely shared by humans, suggesting that lateralized cognitive systems already defined the neural architecture of the common ancestor of birds and mammals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Cognition*
  • Columbidae
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Visual Fields / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*