Pigeons' use of cues in a repeated five-trial-sequence, single-reversal task

Rebecca M. Rayburn-Reeves, Thomas R. Zentall
2012 Learning & Behavior  
We studied behavioral flexibility, or the ability to modify one's behavior in accordance with the changing environment, in pigeons using a reversal-learning paradigm. In two experiments, each session consisted of a series of five-trial sequences involving a simple simultaneous color discrimination in which a reversal could occur during each sequence. The ideal strategy would be to start each sequence with a choice of S1 (the first correct stimulus) until it was no longer correct, and then to
more » ... tch to S2 (the second correct stimulus), thus utilizing cues provided by local reinforcement (feedback from the preceding trial). In both experiments, subjects showed little evidence of using local reinforcement cues, but instead used the mean probabilities of reinforcement for S1 and S2 on each trial within each sequence. That is, subjects showed remarkably similar behavior, regardless of where (or, in Exp. 2, whether) a reversal occurred during a given sequence. Therefore, subjects appeared to be relatively insensitive to the consequences of responses (local feedback) and were not able to maximize reinforcement. The fact that pigeons did not use the more optimal feedback afforded by recent reinforcement contingencies to maximize their reinforcement has implications for their use of flexible response strategies under reversal-learning conditions.
doi:10.3758/s13420-012-0091-5 pmid:22983775 pmcid:PMC3632638 fatcat:si2hrop23jfivcbr4mtb5k6wki