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Selected Publication:

Type of publication: Diploma Thesis
Type of document:

Year: 2014

Authors: Bazzanella, Benjamin

Title: Self-determined learning in pigeons.

Other title: Selbstbestimmtes Lernen bei Tauben

Source: Diplomarbeit, Vet. Med. Univ. Wien, pp. 46.


Huber Ludwig

Troxler Josef

Vetmed Research Units:
Messerli Research Institute, Comparative Cognition

Graduation date: 25.08.14

As the methods of behaviour studies were customized throughout scientific and technical progress, proven devices, like the Skinnerbox were often altered and adapted to reach the respective needs. The last years showed a trend to fully automatic devices, which are freely accessible for the subjects. Such devices were already successfully used in different studies of non-human species (Xia, Delius, Sieman, 1996; Huber, Apfalter, Steurer, Prossinger, 2005; Fagot, Paleressompoul, 2009; Fagot, Bonté, 2010; Huber, Heise, Zeman, Palmers, 2014; Fagot, Gullstrand, Kemp, Defilles, Mekaouche, 2014), but an adaptation for highly agile animals, like birds, needs a special approach. The presented study evaluates and compares the results of a two-alternatives forced-choice procedure (2AFC), overcome with a conventional Skinnerbox, to the same challenge accomplished with an automatic learning device for birds (ALDB). In contrast to the conventional Skinnerbox procedure, where the test-subject has to be caught, in order to be transferred into the test-chamber, the ALDB offers the pigeons (Columba livia) the possibility to enter and leave voluntarily, as it is placed within their familiar aviary and on continuous stand-by mode. This reduction of stress and coercion is likely to lead to enhanced learning-performances of the subjects, an improved animal-welfare and a labour-saving development for the researcher. The ideas of decreased expenditure and increased welfare are obvious. In order to validate enhanced learning-performance, the results of a conventional study by Aust, Matzinger (2012) is compared to the results of the presented study. The outcome displays an overall high number of training-frequency with the ALDB and a better test-performance, than in the conventional study.

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