McMillan, N., Hahn, A.H., Congdon, J.V., Campbell, K.A., Hoang, J., Scully, E.N., Spetch, M.L., & Sturdy C.B.
Animal Cognition, Issue 20, Pages 655-663
Publication year: 2017


Chickadees are high-metabolism, non-migratory birds, and thus an especially interesting model for studying how animals follow patterns of food availability over time. Here, we studied whether black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) could learn to reverse their behavior and/or to anticipate changes in reinforcement when the reinforcer contingencies for each stimulus were not stably fixed in time. In Experiment 1, we examined the responses of chickadees on an auditory go/no-go task, with constant reversals in reinforcement contingencies every 120 trials across daily testing intervals. Chickadees did not produce above-chance discrimination; however, when trained with a procedure that only reversed after successful discrimination, chickadees were able to discriminate and reverse their behavior successfully. In Experiment 2, we examined the responses of chickadees when reversals were structured to occur at the same time once per day, and chickadees were again able to discriminate and reverse their behavior over time, though they showed no reliable evidence of reversal anticipation. The frequency of reversals throughout the day thus appears to be an important determinant for these animals’ performance in reversal procedures.

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