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Three experiments examined the ability of birds to discriminate between the actions of walking forwards and backwards as demonstrated by video clips of a human walking a dog. Experiment 1 revealed that budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulates) could discriminate between these actions when the demonstrators moved consistently from left to right. Test trials then revealed that the discrimination transferred, without additional training, to clips of the demonstrators moving from right to left. Experiment 2 replicated the findings from Experiment 1 except that the demonstrators walked as if on a treadmill in the center of the display screen. The results from the first 2 experiments were replicated with pigeons in Experiment 3. The results cannot be explained if it is assumed that animals rely on static cues, such as those derived from individual postures, in order to discriminate between the actions of another animal. Instead, this type of discrimination appears to be controlled by dynamic cues derived from changes in the posture of the demonstrators.

Original publication




Journal article


J Exp Psychol Anim Behav Process

Publication Date





371 - 380


Animals, Columbidae, Cues, Discrimination Learning, Female, Humans, Imitative Behavior, Male, Melopsittacus, Motion Perception, Orientation, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Transfer (Psychology), Video Recording, Walking