Auditory same/different concept learning and generalization in black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus)

Marisa Hoeschele, Robert Cook, Lauren Guillette, Allison Hahn, Christopher Sturdy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract concept learning was thought to be uniquely human, but has since been observed in many other species. Discriminating same from different is one abstract relation that has been studied frequently. In the current experiment, using operant conditioning, we tested whether black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) could discriminate sets of auditory stimuli based on whether all the sounds within a sequence were the same or different from one another. The chickadees were successful at solving this same/different relational task, and transferred their learning to same/different sequences involving novel combinations of training notes and novel notes within the range of pitches experienced during training. The chickadees showed limited transfer to pitches that was not used in training, suggesting that the processing of absolute pitch may constrain their relational performance. Our results indicate, for the first time, that black-capped chickadees readily form relational auditory same and different categories, adding to the list of perceptual, behavioural, and cognitive abilities that make this species an important comparative model for human language and cognition.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere47691
JournalPLoS One
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2012


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