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Learning & Behavior

Sean B Ostlund
A recent study by Saunders, Richard, Margolis, and Janak (2018) shows that there is a great deal left to learn about what different mesotelencephalic dopamine circuits contribute to learning about the motivational significance of reward-related cues. Their findings suggest that nigrostriatal and mesolimbic dopamine pathways support distinct reinforcement processes that independently push and pull animals toward their goals.
February 8, 2019: Learning & Behavior
Cassandra L Sheridan, Leyre Castro, Sol Fonseca, Edward A Wasserman
Prior categorization studies have shown that pigeons reliably track features that are relevant to category discrimination. In these studies, category exemplars contained two relevant and two irrelevant features; therefore, category density (specifically, the relevant to irrelevant information ratio) was relatively high. Here, we manipulated category density both between and within subjects by keeping constant the amount of relevant information (one feature) and varying the amount of irrelevant information (one or three features)...
February 4, 2019: Learning & Behavior
Olga F Lazareva
Caves et al. (2018) demonstrated categorical perception in zebra finches for the orange-red color category that conveys information about male fitness. This result implies that categorical color perception does not necessarily have linguistic origins, as has been previously believed.
January 25, 2019: Learning & Behavior
Julia Ruiz-Oliveira, Priscila Fernandes Silva, Ana Carolina Luchiari
In this study we investigated the ability of zebrafish to discriminate visual signs and associate them with a reward in an associative-learning protocol including distractors. Moreover, we studied the effects of caffeine on animal performance in the task. After being trained to associate a specific image pattern with a reward (food) in the presence of other, distractor images, the fish were challenged to locate the exact cue associated with the reward. The distractors were same-colored pattern images similar to the target...
January 8, 2019: Learning & Behavior
Benjamin J Ashton, Amanda R Ridley, Alex Thornton
We recently identified a strong, positive relationship between group size and individual cognitive performance, and a strong, positive relationship between female cognitive performance and reproductive success (Ashton, Ridley, Edwards, & Thornton in Nature, 554, 364-367, 2018). An opinion piece by Smulders (Learning & Behavior, , 2018) raised the interesting notion that these patterns may be underlined by motivational factors. In this commentary, we highlight why none of the available data are consistent with this explanation, but instead support the argument that the demands of group living influence cognitive development, with knock-on consequences for fitness...
December 10, 2018: Learning & Behavior
Julia Belger, Juliane Bräuer
In the current study, we investigated the question of whether dogs were sensitive to the information that they themselves had or had not acquired. For this purpose, we conducted three consecutive experiments in which dogs had to find a reward that was hidden behind one of two V-shaped fences with a gap at the point of the V. This setup allowed us to distinguish between selecting one of the fences by walking around it and seeking additional information by checking through the gap in the fence. We varied whether dogs had visual access to the baiting procedure or not...
December 2018: Learning & Behavior
Andie M Thompkins, Bhavitha Ramaiahgari, Sinan Zhao, Sai Sheshan Roy Gotoor, Paul Waggoner, Thomas S Denney, Gopikrishna Deshpande, Jeffrey S Katz
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has emerged as a viable method to study the neural processing underlying cognition in awake dogs. Working dogs were presented with pictures of dog and human faces. The human faces varied in familiarity (familiar trainers and unfamiliar individuals) and emotional valence (negative, neutral, and positive). Dog faces were familiar (kennel mates) or unfamiliar. The findings revealed adjacent but separate brain areas in the left temporal cortex for processing human and dog faces in the dog brain...
December 2018: Learning & Behavior
Enikő Kovács, András Kosztolányi, Anna Kis
Dogs (Canis familiaris) are excellent models of human behavior as during domestication they have adapted to the same environment as humans. There have been many comparative studies on dog behavior; however, several easily measurable and analyzable psychophysiological variables that are widely used in humans are still largely unexplored in dogs. One such measure is rapid eye movement density (REMD) during REM sleep. The aim of this study was to test the viability of measuring REMD in dogs and to explore the relationship between the REMD and different variables (sex, age, body size, and REM sleep duration)...
December 2018: Learning & Behavior
Candice Dwyer, Mark R Cole
There is abundant evidence that domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) readily follow pointing and other cues given by humans. But there has been much less research into the question of whether dogs can learn to discriminate between different humans giving repeated honest or dishonest cues as to food location, by ignoring the information imparted by the deceiver. Prior research has demonstrated that even after repeated exposures to deceptive cues with respect to food location, dogs failed to learn to ignore those cues completely...
December 2018: Learning & Behavior
Stephen E G Lea, Britta Osthaus
The great increase in the study of dog cognition in the current century has yielded insights into canine cognition in a variety of domains. In this review, we seek to place our enhanced understanding of canine cognition into context. We argue that in order to assess dog cognition, we need to regard dogs from three different perspectives: phylogenetically, as carnivoran and specifically a canid; ecologically, as social, cursorial hunters; and anthropogenically, as a domestic animal. A principled understanding of canine cognition should therefore involve comparing dogs' cognition with that of other carnivorans, other social hunters, and other domestic animals...
December 2018: Learning & Behavior
Patrizia Piotti, Dóra Szabó, Zsófia Bognár, Anna Egerer, Petrouchka Hulsbosch, Rachel Sophia Carson, Enikő Kubinyi
Several studies on age-related cognitive decline in dogs involve laboratory dogs and prolonged training. We developed two spatial tasks that required a single 1-h session. We tested 107 medium-large sized dogs: "young" (N=41, aged 2.5-6.5 years) and "old" (N=66, aged 8-14.5 years). Our results indicated that, in a discrimination learning task and in a reversal learning task, young dogs learned significantly faster than the old dogs, indicating that these two tasks could successfully be used to investigate differences in spatial learning between young and old dogs...
December 2018: Learning & Behavior
Alizée A A Vernouillet, Laura R Stiles, J Andrew McCausland, Debbie M Kelly
Inhibitory control, the ability to restrain a prepotent but ineffective response in a given context, is thought to be indicative of a species' cognitive abilities. This ability ranges from "basic" motoric self-regulation to more complex abilities such as self-control. During the current study, we investigated the motoric self-regulatory abilities of 30 pet dogs using four well-established cognitive tasks - the A-not-B Bucket task, the Cylinder task, the Detour task, and the A-not-B Barrier task - administered in a consistent context...
December 2018: Learning & Behavior
Jingzhi Tan, Kara K Walker, Katherine Hoff, Brian Hare
Dogs live in the dynamic human social networks full of strangers, yet they form strong and selective bonds with familiar caretakers. Little is known about how a bond is initially formed between a dog and a complete stranger. The first-impression hypothesis suggests that interacting with strangers can present an opportunity to form a mutualistic partnership. It predicts that dogs should respond positively toward a complete stranger to facilitate bonding (Prediction 1) and adjust their preferences in response to the perceived risk and benefit of interacting with strangers (Prediction 2)...
December 2018: Learning & Behavior
Chana K Akins
Social learning has a large impact on fitness by reducing the costs and dangers associated with independent learning but little research has been conducted to investigate the ontogeny or individual development of this type of learning. Recent research indicated that puppies demonstrate social learning to both conspecific and human demonstrators, but were also more likely to learn better from an unfamiliar conspecific compared to their mother.
December 2018: Learning & Behavior
Benjamin Keep, Helen E Zulch, Anna Wilkinson
Visual illusions are objects that are made up of elements that are arranged in such a way as to result in erroneous perception of the objects' physical properties. Visual illusions are used to study visual perception in humans and nonhuman animals, since they provide insight into the psychological and cognitive processes underlying the perceptual system. In a set of three experiments, we examined whether dogs were able to learn a relational discrimination and to perceive the Müller-Lyer illusion. In Experiment 1, dogs were trained to discriminate line lengths using a two-alternative forced choice procedure on a touchscreen...
December 2018: Learning & Behavior
Jonathan K Fernand, Haleh Amanieh, David J Cox, Nicole R Dorey
The reverse-reward contingency (RRC) task involves presenting subjects with a choice between one plate containing a large amount of food and a second plate containing a small amount of food. Subjects are then required to select the smaller of the two options in order to receive the larger-magnitude reward. The RRC task is a commonly used paradigm for assessing complex cognition, such as inhibitory control, in subjects. To date, the RRC task has not been tested with pet dogs as subjects, and it may provide insights to their ability to perceive quantities of differing magnitudes...
December 2018: Learning & Behavior
Angie M Johnston, Yiyun Huang, Laurie R Santos
Human children and domesticated dogs learn from communicative cues, such as pointing, in highly similar ways. In two experiments, we investigate whether dogs are biased to defer to these cues in the same way as human children. We tested dogs on a cueing task similar to one previously conducted in human children. Dogs received conflicting information about the location of a treat from a Guesser and a Knower, who either used communicative cues (i.e., pointing; Experiments 1 and 2), non-communicative physical cues (i...
December 2018: Learning & Behavior
Jim McGetrick, Friederike Range
The study of inequity aversion in animals debuted with a report of the behaviour in capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella). This report generated many debates following a number of criticisms. Ultimately, however, the finding stimulated widespread interest, and multiple studies have since attempted to demonstrate inequity aversion in various other non-human animal species, with many positive results in addition to many studies in which no response to inequity was found. Domestic dogs represent an interesting case as, unlike many primates, they do not respond negatively to inequity in reward quality but do, however, respond negatively to being unrewarded in the presence of a rewarded partner...
December 2018: Learning & Behavior
Emily M Sanford, Emma R Burt, Julia E Meyers-Manor
Dogs are thought to evaluate humans' emotional states, and attend more to crying people than to humming people. However, it is unclear whether dogs would go beyond focusing attention on humans in need by providing more substantive help to them. This study used a trapped-other paradigm, modified from use in research on rats, to study prosocial helping in dogs. A human trapped behind a door either cried or hummed, and the dog's behavioral and physiological responses (i.e., door opening and heart rate variability) were recorded...
December 2018: Learning & Behavior
Orsolya Kiss, Krisztina Kovács, Flóra Szánthó, József Topál
This study investigates whether dogs are able to differentiate between people according to whether or not they show similarities to their owners. We hypothesized that dogs would show a preference for the "similar" partner when interacting with unfamiliar humans. After having familiarized with two experimenters displaying different degrees of similarity to their owners, dogs (N = 36) participated in a situation where the desired toy object was made inaccessible in order to find out whether they initiate interaction with the two partners differently...
December 2018: Learning & Behavior
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