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Symmetry and transitivity of conditional relations in monkeys (Cebus apella) and pigeons (Columba livia)

  • M. R. D'Amato
  • David P. Salmon
  • Eric Loukas
  • Art Tomie
Publication Date
Jul 01, 1985


In Experiment 1 six monkeys were tested with discriminative relations that were backward relative to their training in a 0-second conditional (“symbolic”) matching procedure. Although there was some indication of backward associations, the evidence was generally weak, and statistical evaluations did not reach conventional significance levels. Unlike children, who show backward associations to the point of symmetry, monkeys and pigeons display at best only weak and transient backward associations. In Experiment 2 associative transitivity was assessed across two sets of conditional matching tasks. All four monkeys tested demonstrated strong transitivity. In contrast, in Experiment 3 there was no evidence of transitivity in three pigeons tested under conditions closely comparable to those of Experiment 2. These results may identify some key features of interspecies differences and contribute to analyses of serial learning in animals.

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