February 4, 2015
University of Iowa
A new study finds pigeons can categorize 128 photographs into 16 categories of natural and humanmade objects, a skill researchers say is similar to the mechanism children use to learn words.
In a new study from the University of Iowa, researchers found that pigeons can categorize and name both natural and humanmade objects--and not just a few objects. These birds categorized 128 photographs into 16 categories, and they did so simultaneously.
Ed Wasserman, UI professor of psychology and corresponding author of the study, says the finding suggests a similarity between how pigeons learn the equivalent of words and the way children do.
"Unlike prior attempts to teach words to primates, dogs, and parrots, we used neither elaborate shaping methods nor social cues," Wasserman says of the study, published online in the journal Cognition. "And our pigeons were trained on all 16 categories simultaneously, a much closer analog of how children learn words and categories."