Social Learning: Psychological and Biological Perspectives

By Thomas R. Zentall; Bennett G. Galef Jr. | Go to book overview

11
Learned Imitation by Pigeons

David E. Hogan Northern Kentucky University


INTRODUCTION

A number of recent observational learning experiments with pigeons suggest that arbitrary stimuli that control a demonstrator's learned response can quickly gain control over topographically similar behavior in observers. Some examples include learning through observation to peck at a hedonically neutral object such as a plastic disk ( Epstein, 1984; Zentall & Hogan, 1976), a Ping-Pong ball ( Epstein , 1984) or a loop of rope ( Epstein, 1984), or to peck discriminatively at a disk illuminated by different wavelengths of light ( Edwards, Hogan, & Zentall, 1980; Hogan, 1986).

Most of the prior research with pigeons has focused on demonstrating the mere existence of learned imitative behavior and only limited research has analyzed how the behavioral match is achieved without explicit shaping (e.g., Miller & Dollard, 1941; Skinner, 1962). The present chapter examines the discriminative and motivational determinants of pigeons' observational learning of simple and complex responses.


DEFINITIONS OF IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR

There are several processes by which imitative behavior may be socially transmitted among conspecifics ( Thorpe, 1963). Social facilitation, or contagion, is a process in which the behavior of a conspecific acts as a social releaser of identical,

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