Psychology News – A study examined the cognitive processes involved in categorization learning. The researchers used pigeons as references and combined artificial stimuli with machine learning to understand how the brain categorizes.
A study at Ruhr-University Bochum revealed how ‘aspects stimuli’ help categorization in our everyday lives.
To understand the underlying cognitive mechanisms of categorization, the study observed the pecking patterns of pigeons. These birds have a highly developed visual system and they are classic model animals in behavioral tests.
The researchers studied 8 adult pigeons in two phases: embryo learning phase and transfer test phase. In the first phase, they generated two classes of digital embryos—arbitrarily termed X and Y—using “virtual phylogenesis”. This is an evolutionary algorithm that generates artificial yet naturalistic stimuli termed as “digital embryos”. Then, the pigeons were trained to peck and divide the images on the screen. In the second phase, the pigeons were made to replicate their training in a number of tests.
The researchers combined “virtual phylogenesis” with a machine learning approach. The latter involved an automated evaluation of the birds’ pecking, pin-pointed locations on screen, and choice behavior.
The findings, published in Animal Cognition, gave interesting insights into “pigeonholing”. Pigeonholing is a colloquial term used for prioritizing a specific cause or object. The researchers here refer to the mental tendency of humans and other animals to prioritize certain aspects of their life for its effective management.
The researchers compared the pigeons’ peckings in both training and transfer trials. The pecking behavior of the pigeons as a group was identical. They could categorize digital images of different classes of stimuli. However, the pecking pattern of individual birds was different. Each pigeon differently attached importance to very specific characteristics of the stimuli. This revealed that they can transfer their knowledge into new examples of perceived stimuli.
Moreover, the lead author, Dr. Roland Pusch, said, “This also suggested that categorisation learning is not limited to a single learning strategy.”
The researchers are enthusiastic that such studies can offer a lot of potential for further research in categorisation learning. Researchers can compare the mechanisms associated with categorisation learning in the brains of different species. This can help devise mental strategies of “pigeonholing”, management interventions, and learning techniques that make human life easier.
To Know More You May Refer To
Pusch, R., Packheiser, J., Koenen, C., Iovine, F., & Güntürkün, O. (2022). Digital embryos: a novel technical approach to investigate perceptual categorization in pigeons (Columba livia) using machine learning. Animal cognition, 10.1007/s10071-021-01594-1. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-021-01594-1