[Not on hadnout but see page 17 of handout]

Gisner and Shusterman (1992)
Propose that it is conditional discrimination learning (and class formation) and not linguistic

Rocky, and adult female, had 5 years of experience with her articifical language previous to this study.

From 1984, 5 modifiers, 5 actions and 10 objects

action were fetch, flipper touch, mouth, toss, tail touch

They generalized touches to objects on land.

[go]under and over; flipper, mouth, tail, fetch (which is 6 now)

Correct response to instructions reinforced with fish for both dolphins and sea lions.

They report responses to unfamiliar (anomalous) combinations of signs created by re-ordering, deleting, or adding signs. The responses demonstrated that the S had learned a number of syntactic relations from exposure to a limited set of standard combinatorial forms. At least 2 types: i)sequential conditional relations between sign classes ii)hierarchical conditional relations between subsets of signs within a combination.

The data also shows that she made little if any use of logical or semantic properties of the signs

Anomalies were not reinforced

some tests with large black ball TYPE of instruction.

If object missed out always balked, even if "white over" and white object present

But modifiers treated as optional - just chose nearest object, if black and white balls present. and Black-white ball fetch.

Extra irrelevant modifiers were ignored e.g. black large water wing fetch when there was only one size of waterwing.

1. Ball flipper meant touch ball with flipper. If "flipper ball" no response

2. No startle for "black white ball

3. Impossible instructions Car person Fetch: Rocky began a response and only stopped when she arrived at the immoveable object

p 89. explanation as complicated fish obtaining strategies.

Dolphins tested with "nonsense" instructions tended to invent responses, but this is probably because they were reinforced for all responses.

sign components were contrasted for competitive feature salience

The dolphin with sign-language experience attended to (inorder of importance) location, completed temporal pattern, gross motor motion, direction of motion. not much on hand shape

Non-language dolopphin showed no discrimination between features

humns in the linguistic contexts had gross motor, location fine motor and hand shape and orietnion

nonlinguistic humans no discrimination betwen features

Pepperberg (1990)

Comprehension skills of African Gray parrot (Psittcaus erithacus) For each test trial the parrot was shown a different collection of 7 physical expemplars (from 100 objects of various shapes, colours and materials); was asked 1 of 4 possible vocal questions, each of which requested a different type of information (E.g. "what colour is X") about a single object, and was required to reply vocally to each question. A correct response indicated that the parrot understood all the elements of the question and used these elements to guide the search for the 1 object in the collection that provided the requested information. The bird responded with an accurary of 81.3%, which suggests that his capacities are comparable to those of non-human primates and marine mammals that have been trained on similar tasks that involve comprehension of categories and labels

Pepperberg (1987a and b) has shown labelling of numerical quantities, and comprehension of same/different.

Plus, previously correct answers of "blue wood" or "5 corner wood" to "What's this?"


  • Alex could produce vocal labels for seven colours (green, rose(red), blue yellow, gray purple and orange)
  • 5 shapes (2,3,4,5, 6 corner)
  • 7 materials (mah-mah) (cork, wood, hide, paper chalk wool and rock (plahdoh)
  • ojects (key,, chain, grate, tray, truck (toys) pegwood (clothes peg) block (wood), plastic or paper cup and box.


Each trial was presented intermittently during training and testing of other topics (numberacy and photograph recognition)

4 possible questions:

What colour is X

What shape is X

What object is colour Y

What object is shape Z


objects were presented on a tray covered in green felt, and Alex began to respond to a trial by biting the tray and saying "tray", or pulling the felt and saying green"

It was to counter this that trials were intermittent. Also reward was used in the sense that Alex was given the target objects(s), and then allowed to say"I want ZZ" and given "zz"


primary and secondary trainers. primary with back to situation in which secondary trainer presented the objects