Pigeons (Columba livia) integrate visual motion using the vector average rule: effect of viewing distance


Integrating local motion signals detected by the primary motion detector is crucial for representing a rigid, two-dimensional motion. The nature of motion integration has been studied using stimuli consisting of two superimposed sinusoidal gratings of different orientations, called plaid motion, and it has been shown that humans perceive integrated motion in the direction where the component constraint lines are intersected. We previously found that pigeons and humans perceive different movement directions from plaid motion; pigeons responded to the vector average direction of the gratings. Although this suggests that the underlying processes of motion integration differ between the two species, the viewing distance in the pigeon experiment, which used a touch panel procedure, was much smaller than in typical human experiments. The current study investigated the potential effect of viewing distance on the perception of plaid motion in pigeons. We trained six pigeons to detect whether motion directions were tilted leftward or rightward while a visual display was presented 0 or 40 cm from an operant chamber. The pigeons responded to plaid stimuli for both viewing distance conditions as if they perceived motion in the vector average direction of two-component gratings. The result indicates that the species difference in plaid perception is not an artefact of viewing distance and suggests that pigeons use a different strategy than humans for integrating visual motion.

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Data availability

The datasets generated or analyzed during the current study and the supplementary stimulus movies and figures are available in the Open Science Framework repository, https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/Z4UP3.


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This study was financially supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Numbers 15J02739 to YH and 16H01505 and 16H06301 to KF. We thank James R. Anderson for editing the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Yuya Hataji.

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The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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This study adhered to the ethical guidelines of Kyoto University and was approved by the Animal Experiments Committee of the Graduate School of Letters, Kyoto University (No. 18-32).

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Hataji, Y., Fujita, K. & Kuroshima, H. Pigeons (Columba livia) integrate visual motion using the vector average rule: effect of viewing distance. Anim Cogn 23, 819–825 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-020-01376-1

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  • Visual motion
  • Plaid motion
  • Viewing distance
  • Pigeons