The ability to treat discriminatively different external stimuli as substitutable members of a common class is the defining property of conceptualization. Prior work has shown that animals as diverse as human beings and pigeons can classify lifelike visual stimuli into natural and artificial categories. The present competitive continuation application aims to see whether the perceptual processes of conceptualization are similar in humans and pigeons. New key personnel will be added with expertise in visual feature identification and object-based attention who can help advance the objectives of the project. Pigeons will be trained with operant conditioning procedures to discriminate line drawings and computer renderings of natural and artificial stimuli. The pigeons will then be tested with specially modified stimuli that: (1) remove certain portions of the training stimuli, (2) rearrange its component parts, and (3) rotate the image in depth. These test stimuli produce highly specific effects in humans, which encourage the view that human object recognition is mediated by a structural description specifying a non-accidental (i.e., viewpoint-invariant) representation of the parts and the relations among those parts--recognition by components. If people and pigeons similarly process visual stimuli, then the results of the planned series of experiments with pigeons should parallel those with people. Empirical convergence would attest to the economy of nature and to the superfluity of language for conceptualization. Empirical divergence would imply that different neurobiological or linguistic mechanisms mediate visual concepts in people and pigeons. In either case, the results of this research project should shed considerable light on the species generality of conceptualization and could yield important clues for how cognitive and computer scientists might more successfully design intelligent systems that are capable of visual pattern recognition. The results could also promote the behavioral analysis of discrimination and generalization processes in learning-disabled or language-deficient humans. ? ?

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Biobehavioral and Behavioral Processes 3 (BBBP)
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Kurtzman, Howard S
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University of Iowa
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Iowa City
United States
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Wasserman, Edward A (2016) Conceptualization in pigeons: The evolution of a paradigm. Behav Processes 123:4-14
Soto, Fabian A; Wasserman, Edward A (2016) Promoting rotational-invariance in object recognition despite experience with only a single view. Behav Processes 123:107-13
Lazareva, Olga F; Wasserman, Edward A (2016) No evidence for feature binding by pigeons in a change detection task. Behav Processes 123:90-106
Peissig, Jessie J; Nagasaka, Yasuo; Young, Michael E et al. (2015) Using the reassignment procedure to test object representation in pigeons and people. Learn Behav 43:188-207
Wasserman, Edward A; Brooks, Daniel I; McMurray, Bob (2015) Pigeons acquire multiple categories in parallel via associative learning: a parallel to human word learning? Cognition 136:99-122
Urcuioli, Peter J; Wasserman, Edward A; Zentall, Thomas R (2014) ASSOCIATIVE CONCEPT LEARNING IN ANIMALS: ISSUES AND OPPORTUNITIES. J Exp Anal Behav 101:165-170
Zentall, Thomas R; Wasserman, Edward A; Urcuioli, Peter J (2014) Associative concept learning in animals. J Exp Anal Behav 101:130-51
Wasserman, Edward A; Teng, Yuejia; Castro, Leyre (2014) Pigeons exhibit contextual cueing to both simple and complex backgrounds. Behav Processes 104:44-52
Soto, Fabian A; Siow, Jeffrey Y M; Wasserman, Edward A (2012) View-invariance learning in object recognition by pigeons depends on error-driven associative learning processes. Vision Res 62:148-61
Acerbo, Martin J; Lazareva, Olga F; McInnerney, John et al. (2012) Figure-ground discrimination in the avian brain: the nucleus rotundus and its inhibitory complex. Vision Res 70:18-26

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