Mechanisms of midsession reversal accuracy: Memory for preceding events and timing.

Aaron P. Smith, Joshua S. Beckmann, Thomas R. Zentall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The midsession reversal task involves a simultaneous discrimination between 2 stimuli (S1 and S2) in which, for the first half of each session, choice of S1 is reinforced and, for the last half, choice of S2 is reinforced. On this task, pigeons appear to time the occurrence of the reversal rather than using feedback from previous trials, resulting in increased numbers of errors. In the present experiments, we tested the hypothesis that pigeons make so many errors because they fail to remember the last response made and/or the consequence of making that response both of which are needed ideally as cues to respond on the next trial. To facilitate memory, during the 5-s intertrial interval, we differentially lit a houselight correlated with the prior response to S1 or S2 and maintained the hopper light when that response was correct. A control group received uncorrelated houselights and no maintained hopper light. To test for continued use of temporal information, both groups received probe sessions in which the intertrial interval was either halved or doubled. Providing relevant reminder cues of the stimulus chosen and its consequence resulted in improved reversal accuracy and reduced disruption from probe sessions compared with irrelevant cues. Nevertheless, despite the reminder cues, the pigeons in both groups appeared to continue to time the point in the session at which the reversal occurred.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-71
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Behavioral flexibility
  • Memory
  • Pigeons
  • Timing
  • Win-stay/lose-shift

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Mechanisms of midsession reversal accuracy: Memory for preceding events and timing.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this