Skip to main content
Mediational Use of Internal Representations of Food and No-Food Events by Pigeons
Learning and Motivation (1991)
  • Janice Steirn, University of Kentucky
  • Pamela Jackson-Smith, University of Kentucky
  • Thomas R. Zentall, University of Kentucky
Two experiments were conducted with pigeons to determine whether internal representations of food and no-food events can act as mediators in the formation of new associations. Specifically we asked if the representation of an anticipated event can replace the event itself in an established conditional discrimination. In Phase 1 of both experiments pigeons were differentially autoshaped to peck hue stimuli, only one of which was followed by access to food. In Phase 2 they were trained on a symbolic 0-delay matching-to-sample (DMTS) task with food and no-food samples and line-orientation comparisons. In Phase 3 the birds were tested on a symbolic DMTS task in which the hue stimuli from Phase 1 were substituted for the Phase 2 food-event samples. For the Pos group, the hue followed by food in Phase 1 was substituted for the food sample and the hue associated with no-food was substituted for the no-food sample so that the resulting sample/comparison pairings were consistent with the food-event mediator. For the Neg group the pairings were reversed so that the sample/comparison pairings were inconsistent with the food-event mediators. In Experiment 1, when the no-food event was the absence of an event, acquisition of the transfer task was significantly more rapid in the Pos than in the Neg condition. In Experiment 2, when the no-food event was the presentation of an empty food hopper, the Pos group transferred at a significantly higher level than the Neg group. The two experiments provide evidence that in pigeons, representations involving event anticipations can be substituted for, and are thus similar to, the events themselves.
  • Internal representations of food events by pigeons,
  • Internal representations of no-food events by pigeons
Publication Date
November, 1991
Citation Information
Janice Steirn, Pamela Jackson-Smith and Thomas R. Zentall. "Mediational Use of Internal Representations of Food and No-Food Events by Pigeons" Learning and Motivation Vol. 22 Iss. 4 (1991) p. 353 - 365
Available at: