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Foundations of Metacognition$
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Michael J. Beran, Johannes Brandl, Josef Perner, and Joëlle Proust

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199646739

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199646739.001.0001

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Are birds metacognitive?

Are birds metacognitive?

Chapter:
(p.50) Chapter 3 Are birds metacognitive?
Source:
Foundations of Metacognition
Author(s):

Kazuo Fujita

Noriyuki Nakamura

Sumie Iwasaki

Sota Watanabe

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199646739.003.0004

Avians have been shown to be highly cognitive. This chapter asks whether they are also metacognitive in two separate experimental situations. In Study 1, recognition of confidence of their immediate decision in perceptual tasks was tested. Pigeons and bantams performed a visual search to peck at a target colour among distracters. Completing the search led them to a choice between a ‘risk’ icon and a ‘safe’ icon. The ‘risk’ icon always rewarded the bird’s correct search responses by food but punished incorrect responses by a timeout. The ‘safe’ icon rewarded the response at a lower frequency irrespective of their responses. The birds chose the ‘safe’ icon more frequently after an incorrect search than after a correct search. This differential use of icons generalized to the same tasks with new stimuli in most birds, and in one pigeon to a novel line-length discrimination task. In Study 2, it was asked whether pigeons would seek a hint when they were unsure of what to do next. They performed a list learning task, in which they had to peck at three icons in an arbitrary sequence. When novel icons appeared, the birds had to find out a correct sequence by trial and error. However, on half of the trials, there was an additional ‘hint’ icon, and pecking at it marked the next icon in the sequence. Some of the birds used this ‘hint’ icon more frequently upon starting to learn novel lists and less frequently later. These results suggest that some birds could be metacognitive in some situations, although other non-metacognitive accounts were also considered.

Keywords:   metacognition, avians, pigeons, bantams, visual search, discrimination, confidence judgments, hint seeking

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