Pigeons' categorization may be exclusively nonanalytic

Psychon Bull Rev. 2011 Apr;18(2):414-21. doi: 10.3758/s13423-010-0047-8.


Recent theoretical and empirical developments in human category learning have differentiated an analytic, rule-based system of category learning from a nonanalytic system that integrates information across stimulus dimensions. In the present study, the researchers applied this theoretical distinction to pigeons' category learning. Pigeons learned to categorize stimuli varying in the tilt and width of their internal striping. The matched category problems had either a unidimensional (rule-based) or multidimensional (information-integration) solution. Whereas humans and nonhuman primates strongly dimensionalize these stimuli and learn rule-based tasks far more quickly than information-integration tasks, pigeons learned the two tasks equally quickly to the same accuracy level. Pigeons may represent a cognitive system in which the commitment to dimensional analysis and category rules was not strongly made. Their performance could suggest the character of the ancestral vertebrate categorization system from which that of primates emerged.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cognition*
  • Columbidae
  • Concept Formation
  • Discrimination Learning*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Photic Stimulation