Timing Light and Tone Signals in Pigeons

William A. Roberts*, Ken Cheng, Jerome S. Cohen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Citations (Scopus)


Pigeons' ability to time light and tone stimuli was examined in four experiments. In Experiment 1, two groups of pigeons were trained to discriminate between 2- and 8-s durations of lights or tones and then were transferred to reversal or nonreversal discriminations in the alternate modality. Pigeons learned the light discrimination faster than the tone discrimination and showed immediate positive intermodal transfer from tone to light but not from light to tone. In Experiments 2-4, the peak procedure was used to study birds' timing of 15- and 30-s fixed-interval light and tone signals. Peak times on empty trials under baseline conditions closely approximated the length of fixed-interval signals. When pigeons were tested with time-outs and intermodal switches introduced midway through an empty trial, they tended to reset the timing mechanism and begin timing again from 0 s. With both estimation and production procedures, pigeons were less accurate when timing the tone stimuli than when timing the light stimuli. A comparison of these data with data from timing experiments with rats suggests several possible differences in timing processes between pigeons and rats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-35
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1989
Externally publishedYes


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