Hollis, K.L., ten Cate, C. and Bateson, P. (1991) “Stimulus representation: a subprocess of imprinting and conditioning.” [top of page 9 of handout]
Abstract “We suggest a way to reconcile imprinting and associative learning that respects the real differences between them but helps to recognise underlying commonalities... we approach learning as a combination of separate sub-processes. ...one of these, the representation of stimuli revealed striking similarities between imprinting and conditioning. <further work> ‘will help us uncover the general rules by which combinations of stimulus features are represented in memory’.
Information from double imprinting is combined in this case. This is consistent with associative theories about combinations of stimulus features.
Can learning be neatly divided into “general processes“ on the one hand (e.g. Habituation, Pavlovian conditioning) and “adaptive specializations“ (e.g. imprinting, song-learning”) on the other?
Shettleworth recommends an approach in which “appreciation of specializations goes hand in hand with the study of general processes.” (p. 5)
E.g. imprinting may be an example of more general “learning
rules underlying the development of a preference for – or recognition
of – familiar stimuli....” (p.7)
But imprinting is clearly also an example of learning that is functionally specialized for social identification. Other functional areas where learning is likely to be an important process include spatial knowledge (learning “cognitive maps”) and feeding strategies (as in “optimal foraging”).