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Learning & Behavior

Tom V Smulders
Wild Australian magpies living (or growing up) in larger social groups take fewer trials to solve a battery of four cognitive tests than those living (or growing up) in smaller groups. The tests all draw on a common underlying factor, but is this factor cognitive or motivational?
July 10, 2018: Learning & Behavior
Ludwig Huber, Natálie Popovová, Sabine Riener, Kaja Salobir, Giulia Cimarelli
Companion dogs learn easily from humans, including human behavior, human communication, and some aspects of the human-made environment. They benefit from having the opportunity to learn from humans and are able to spontaneously synchronize their behavior with that of their caregiver. Here, we tested whether pet dogs would show a special form of observational learning, one that has been considered uniquely human. Indeed, humans show overimitation, the faithful copying of causally irrelevant actions, but great apes do not...
July 6, 2018: Learning & Behavior
Monique A R Udell
Domestic dogs have become well known for their socio-cognitive successes, so what does it mean when domestic dogs fail to cooperate? A new study by Marshall-Pescini, Schwarz, Kostelnik, Virányi, and Range (PNAS, 114(44) 11793-11798, 2017) highlights the importance of considering socioecological context, learning, and relationship quality when evaluating the social cognition of dogs and wolves.
July 6, 2018: Learning & Behavior
Jonathan D Lane
Five decades ago, Dmitry Belyaev, Lyudmila Trut, and colleagues began a now-famous experiment, selectively breeding foxes based on one criterion: perceived tame behavior. Over generations, the fox population changed in behavior (as predicted) but, intriguingly, also changed markedly in appearance-for example, many had wider mouths, curlier tails, different fur coloring, and floppy ears. These researchers concluded that the morphological changes that appeared in their foxes were a by-product of the researchers' selecting for genetic variants that are implicated both in behavior and in appearance...
July 2, 2018: Learning & Behavior
Elias Tsakanikos, Phil Reed
This study adopted a novel approach to relating nonhuman and human studies of anxiety and latent inhibition, by exploring the degree to which rats' "temperaments" in relation to anxiety predicted the development of latent inhibition. It investigated whether anxiety levels in one situation (i.e., an elevated-plus maze) involving 38 intact, mature rats, could predict performance on a latent inhibition task (i.e., an animal model of attention), and, thus, reproduce findings from human studies. Rats were subjected to two tasks: a novel within-subject, appetitive stimulus pre-exposure procedure, and an elevated-plus maze task...
June 20, 2018: Learning & Behavior
Robert Hampton
The report by Kabadayi and Osvath (Science, 357(6347), 202-204, 2017) does not demonstrate planning in ravens. The behavior of corvids and apes is fascinating and will be best appreciated through well-designed experiments that explicitly test alternative explanations and that are interpreted without unjustified anthropomorphic embellishment.
June 20, 2018: Learning & Behavior
Marcello Siniscalchi, Serenella d'Ingeo, Angelo Quaranta
Recent scientific literature shows that emotional cues conveyed by human vocalizations and odours are processed in an asymmetrical way by the canine brain. In the present study, during feeding behaviour, dogs were suddenly presented with 2-D stimuli depicting human faces expressing the Ekman's six basic emotion (e.g. anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise, disgust, and neutral), simultaneously into the left and right visual hemifields. A bias to turn the head towards the left (right hemisphere) rather than the right side was observed with human faces expressing anger, fear, and happiness emotions, but an opposite bias (left hemisphere) was observed with human faces expressing surprise...
June 19, 2018: Learning & Behavior
Ken Cheng
An artificial-intelligence model based on deep learning developed units in a hidden layer that resembled mammalian grid cells in the hippocampus when the agent was taught to integrate paths. The full model performed sophisticated navigational tasks-in some cases even better than a human.
June 14, 2018: Learning & Behavior
Jennifer Vonk
Hirata, Fuwa, and Myowa (Royal Society Open Science, 4; 170370, 2017) extended to chimpanzee subjects a paradigm that had been developed by Povinelli and colleagues (Povinelli, Landau, Child Development, 67; 1540-1554, 1996; Perilloux, Povinelli & Simon, Developmental Psychology, 34, 188-194, 1998) to demonstrate the concept of self-continuity in young children. However, Hirata and colleagues lacked critical controls that would have allowed the conclusion that some of their chimpanzees recognized themselves in the time-delayed videos...
June 4, 2018: Learning & Behavior
Rebecca J Chase, David N George
The less-is-better effect is a preference for the lesser of two alternatives sometimes observed when they are evaluated separately. For example, a dinner service of 24 intact pieces might be judged to be more valuable than a 40-piece dinner service containing nine broken pieces. Pattison and Zentall (Animal Cognition, 17: 1019-1022, 2014) reported similar sub-optimal choice behavior in dogs using a simultaneous choice procedure. Given a choice between a single high-value food item (cheese) or an equivalent high-value item plus a lower-value food item (carrot), their dogs chose the individual item...
June 4, 2018: Learning & Behavior
Christina M Sluka, Kathleen Stanko, Alexander Campbell, Johanel Cáceres, Danielle Panoz-Brown, Aidan Wheeler, Jordan Bradley, Colin Allen
We built upon previous work by Fujita et al. (2012, Animal Cognition, 15(6), 1055-1063) to create an experiment that investigated the presence of incidental memory for the spatial location of uneaten food in the domestic dog. Here, we dissociated potentially incidental spatial memory from the incidental memory for the characteristics of objects, in this case, food bowls. Eighteen household domestic dogs of various breeds and age were presented with four bowls. Each bowl contained either a novel object, treats the dog could consume, treats it could not consume, or it was left empty...
May 29, 2018: Learning & Behavior
Charlotte Duranton, Florence Gaunet
Behavioral synchronization is evolutionary adaptive, fostering social cohesion. In humans, affiliation between partners is associated with a high level of behavioral synchronization; people show increased affiliation towards people who synchronize with them. Surprisingly, until recently, little was known about these phenomena at an interspecific level, which is, however, essential to better understand the respective roles of evolution and ontogeny. After presenting why dog-human dyads are a relevant biological model to study this field of social cognition, we review the recent findings about dog-human behavioral synchronization...
April 30, 2018: Learning & Behavior
Satoshi Hirata
Crockford et al. (2017, Science Advances, 3(11), e1701742) conducted experimental studies in the wild in Africa to investigate the ability of chimpanzees to understand the mental states of other conspecific individuals. Their findings suggest that chimpanzees understand whether or not other individuals are aware of dangers, and they behave differently according to their understanding about the mental states of other individuals.
April 27, 2018: Learning & Behavior
Anthony A Wright, Debbie M Kelly, Jeffrey S Katz
This article describes an approach for training a variety of species to learn the abstract concept of same/different, which in turn forms the basis for testing proactive interference and list memory. The stimulus set for concept-learning training was progressively doubled from 8, 16, 32, 64, 128 . . . to 1,024 different pictures with novel-stimulus transfer following learning. All species fully learned the same/different abstract concept: capuchin and rhesus monkeys learned more readily than pigeons; nutcrackers and magpies were at least equivalent to monkeys and transferred somewhat better following initial training sets...
June 2018: Learning & Behavior
Fiona R Cross, Robert R Jackson
Some jumping spiders (family Salticidae) bear a striking resemblance to ants, a dangerous type of prey, both in terms of their appearance and in terms of how they move. Recent research has taken important steps toward determining whether predators categorize these spiders as ants on the basis of the way they move.
June 2018: Learning & Behavior
Jennifer Vonk
Elbroch, Levy, Lubell, Quigley, and Caragiulo (2017, Science Advances, 3, e170218) used GPS and motion-activated camera technology to track and rate the interactions between solitary wild pumas. They found that tolerance at feeding sites was not predicted by kinship but, rather, indicated the ability to engage in direct reciprocity, challenging previous assumptions about social cognition in solitary species.
June 2018: Learning & Behavior
Sydney Trask, Mark E Bouton
Recent evidence from this laboratory suggests that a context switch after operant learning consistently results in a decrement in responding. One way to reduce this decrement is to train the response in multiple contexts. One interpretation of this result, rooted in stimulus sampling theory, is that conditioning of a greater number of common stimulus elements arising from more contexts causes better generalization to new contexts. An alternative explanation is that each change of context causes more effortful retrieval, and practice involving effortful retrieval results in learning that is better able to transfer to new situations...
June 2018: Learning & Behavior
Sezen Kislal, David A Blizard
We compared the rate of acquisition and strength of retention of conditioned context aversion (CCA) with conditioned taste aversion (CTA) using pigmented, genetically heterogeneous mice (derived from Large and Small strains). Extending previous findings, in Experiment 1, mice accustomed to drinking from large glass bottles in the colony room learned to avoid graduated tubes after a single conditioning trial when drinking from these novel tubes was paired with injections of LiCl. The results also showed that CCA could be developed even when there was a 30-minute delay between conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus...
June 2018: Learning & Behavior
Sadahiko Nakajima
Running in an activity wheel generates pica behavior (kaolin clay intake) in rats. Wheel running also results in Pavlovian conditioned avoidance of the taste solution consumed immediately before the running. Since pica has been considered a behavioral marker of nausea in rats, these findings suggest that wheel running induces nausea, which is the underlying physiological state for establishing taste avoidance. This article reports a replication of running-based pica in rats (Experiment 1) and concurrent demonstrations of running-based pica and taste avoidance in the same animals (Experiments 2 and 3)...
June 2018: Learning & Behavior
Sarah F Brosnan
One challenge of studying cognition and behavior in other species is designing studies that are intuitive and motivating to the subjects; studies that lack these features may result in false negatives and other outcomes that bias our understanding of animals' abilities and choices. Here, Schmelz, Grueneisen, Kabalak, Jost, and Tomasello (PNAS, 114(28), 7462-7467, 2017) investigated prosocial behavior, in which animals may make decisions that benefit a conspecific, and found that, contrary to much earlier work, when chimpanzees are given a reason to do so, they do make prosocial choices...
June 2018: Learning & Behavior
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