Honeybees (Apis mellifera) holding on to memories

Response competition causes retroactive interference effects

Ken Cheng*, Anne E. Wignall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Citations (Scopus)


Five experiments on honeybees examined how the learning of a second task interferes with what was previously learned. Free flying bees were tested for landmark-based memory in variations on a paradigm of retroactive interference. Bees first learned Task 1, were tested on Task 1 (Test 1), then learned Task 2, and were tested again on Task 1 (Test 2). A 60-min delay (waiting in a box) before Test 2 caused no performance decrements. If the two tasks had conflicting response requirements, (e.g., target right of a green landmark in Task 1 and left of a blue landmark in Task 2), then a strong decrement on Test 2 was found (retroactive interference effect). When response competition was minimised during training or testing, however, the decrement on Test 2 was small or nonexistent. The results implicate response competition as a major contributor to the retroactive interference effect. The honeybee seems to hold on to memories; new memories do not wipe out old ones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-150
Number of pages10
JournalAnimal Cognition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006

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