Chapter

Category learning and concept learning in birds

Olga F. Lazareva and Edward A. Wasserman

in The Making of Human Concepts

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780199549221
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191724152 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199549221.003.08
Category learning and concept learning in birds

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This chapter reviews evidence on the abilities of pigeons to learn a variety of categories. The categories investigated include those based on perceptual similarity, association, and more abstract relations among stimuli. It is shown that if asked in the appropriate way, then birds too can provide convincing evidence of their conceptual abilities that bears sometimes striking similarities to human conceptual abilities. Birds form concepts based on perceptual similarity among their members, classifying objects into basic-level categories and subordinate-level categories. They appear to sense the perceptual structure of their environment, viewing members of basic-level categories (such as humans or trees) as being more similar to one another than to members of other categories. They can sort objects into nonsimilarity-based, superordinate categories, flexibly switching from basic-level categorization to superordinate-level categorization. Even the ability to form abstract concepts based on the relation between or among stimuli is not exclusively human.

Keywords: category learning; categorization; pigeons; perceptual concepts; association; abstract relations

Chapter.  8934 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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