Radial maze analog for pigeons: Evidence for flexible coding strategies may result from faulty assumptions

Cassandra D. Gipson, Kelly A. DiGian, Holly C. Miller, Thomas R. Zentall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Previous research with the radial maze has found evidence that rats can remember both places that they have already been (retrospective coding) and places they have yet to visit (prospective coding; Cook, R. G., Brown, M. F., & Riley, D. A. (1985). Flexible memory processing by rats: Use of prospective and retrospective information in the radial maze. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behaviour Processes, 11, 453-469). Such dual coding also has been found in pigeons using a radial maze analog in which insertion of a delay at different points during a trial affects performance differentially depending on where in the trial it is inserted. When a delay is interpolated either early or late in a trial, there is minimal disruption of performance compared with when it is interpolated in the middle of the trial. However, the analysis required with this procedure requires the assumption that if errors made on control trials are subtracted from errors made in delay trials, the remaining errors can be directly attributed to the delay. But errors may also be attributed to the changing criterion for making a response as the trial proceeds. Furthermore, the animal's tendency to choose alternatives in a systematic order may also affect its need to remember the sequence of choices made (and yet to be made) on each trial. In the present research, we avoided having to make this assumption by giving the pigeons a two-alternative choice at the time of testing and by randomly determining for the pigeon the order of predelay choices on each trial. This change in procedure resulted in comparable performance as a function of where in the trial the test occurred on both control and delay trials. The effect of the delay was to produce a general decrement in performance independent of where it occurred in the trial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-295
Number of pages11
JournalLearning and Motivation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Dual coding
  • Pigeons
  • Prospective coding
  • Radial maze
  • Retrospective coding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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