Spontaneous Learning of Visual Structures in Domestic Chicks

Orsola Rosa-Salva, József Fiser, Elisabetta Versace, Carola Dolci, Sarah Chehaimi, Chiara Santolin, Giorgio Vallortigara
2018 Animals  
Effective communication crucially depends on the ability to produce and recognize structured signals, as apparent in language and birdsong. Although it is not clear to what extent similar syntactic-like abilities can be identified in other animals, recently we reported that domestic chicks can learn abstract visual patterns and the statistical structure defined by a temporal sequence of visual shapes. However, little is known about chicks' ability to process spatial/positional information from
more » ... isual configurations. Here, we used filial imprinting as an unsupervised learning mechanism to study spontaneous encoding of the structure of a configuration of different shapes. After being exposed to a triplet of shapes (ABC or CAB), chicks could discriminate those triplets from a permutation of the same shapes in different order (CAB or ABC), revealing a sensitivity to the spatial arrangement of the elements. When tested with a fragment taken from the imprinting triplet that followed the familiar adjacency-relationships (AB or BC) vs. one in which the shapes maintained their position with respect to the stimulus edges (AC), chicks revealed a preference for the configuration with familiar edge elements, showing an edge bias previously found only with temporal sequences.
doi:10.3390/ani8080135 pmid:30082590 fatcat:wbduxxilojgenjya5z4tsjkjpa