Transitive Inference in Pigeons: Simplified Procedures and a Test of Value Transfer Theory

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Animal Learning and Behavior




Minimal procedures for the demonstration of transitive inference (TI) in animals have involved the training of four simultaneous discriminations: for example, A+B−, B+C−, C+D−, and D+E−, followed by the demonstration of a preference for B over D on test trials. In Experiment 1, we found that TI in pigeons can be found with successive training involving A+B−, B+C−, A+C−, C+D−, D+E−, C+E−, and A+E−. In Experiment 2, we found that demonstration of TI did not require inclusion of experience with the nonadjacent stimulus pairs (A+C−, C+E−, A+E−). Experiment 3 provided a test of value transfer theory (VTT; Fersen, Wynne, Delius, & Staddon, 1991). When pigeons were trained with stimulus pairs that did not permit the transitive ordering of stimuli, but did permit the differential transfer of value (e.g., A+B−, C−E+, C+D−, & A+E−), preference for B over D was still found. Analyses of the relation between direct experiences with reinforced and nonreinforced responding and stimulus preferences on test trials failed to support a reinforcement-history account of TI.