Required pecking alters judgments of the passage of time by pigeons

Thomas R. Zentall, Andrea M. Friedrich, Tricia S. Clement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


There is evidence that how humans perceive time is affected by the activity in which they are engaged when they are judging time. In humans, typically, the more demanding the task, the faster time seems to pass. We asked whether a similar effect could be found in pigeons. Pigeons were trained to discriminate between a short- (2-sec) and a long- (10-sec) duration stimulus. Depending on the color of the stimulus (white or blue), the pigeons were required to peck (at least once per second or the trial was aborted) or to refrain from pecking (pecks aborted the trial). Once these tasks had been acquired to a high degree, probe trials involving white and blue stimuli were presented at durations between 2 and 10 sec. On trials in which the pigeons were required to peck, the point of subjective equality (i.e., the point at which pigeons are equally likely to choose the stimulus associated with long stimuli as the stimulus associated with short stimuli) was almost 1 sec longer than on trials in which the pigeons were required to refrain from pecking. In other words, on trials that required pecking, more time passed before the pigeons indicated that the probe duration was at the subjective midpoint between 2 and 10 sec than on trials that did not require pecking. This result suggests that like humans, the pigeons underestimated the passage of time when they were active or when attention to time-related cues had to be shared with attention to satisfying the response rate requirement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1038-1042
Number of pages5
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Required pecking alters judgments of the passage of time by pigeons'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this