Fast- and slow-exploring pigeons differ in how they use previously learned rules

L. M. Guillette, D. M. Baron, C. B. Sturdy, M. L. Spetch

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14 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


Several studies report a correlation between exploratory behaviour and performance on tests of cognitive ability. Exploration may influence learning because less exploratory animals are less likely to come in contact with to-be-learned stimuli. Alternatively, the way information available in the environment is processed could influence the rate of exploration. Pigeons are one of the most-studied species used to examine the mechanisms underlying cognitive abilities, but have not been used to examine the relationship between these abilities and animal personality. Here, twelve pigeons were first tested in a novel environment to assess repeatability in exploratory behaviour. Pigeons were then trained to discriminate between two visual stimuli: lines oriented at 90° (vertical, the S + ) and 135° (the S-). After training pigeons underwent generalization testing with ten additional visual line orientation stimuli. We found exploratory behaviour was related to generalization performance: fast-explorers had steeper generalization gradients compared to slow-explorers. This effect was only seen in the direction towards the S-. These results suggest that birds with different exploratory styles differ in how they use previously learned information. Further testing is needed to confirm which cue(s) (S+ or S-) control the behaviour of fast-explorers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-62
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioural Processes
Early online date25 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017


  • Animal personality
  • Cognition
  • Exploratory behaviour
  • Generalization
  • Individual differences
  • Pigeon


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