Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes 33:3 (2007), pp. 244–261. Copyright © 2007 by the American Psychological Association. Used by permission.


The authors presented people (Experiment 1) and pigeons (Experiments 2 and 3) with a large number of 1-way traveling salesperson problems that consisted of 3, 4, and 5 identical stimuli (nodes) on a computer monitor. The sequence of nodes that each traveler selected was recorded, and the distance of the route was subsequently determined. The routes the pigeons and people selected were reliably more efficient than those used by a Monte Carlo model given the same problems. The pigeons’ routes were significantly less efficient than a nearest neighbor model of performance, however. In Experiment 3, pigeons were required to select a route that was within the top 33% of all possible solutions for a given problem. The pigeons’ solutions were significantly more efficient than those observed in Experiment 2, in which the behavioral criterion was not imposed. The mechanisms that pigeons and people may have been using to solve the traveling salesperson problems are discussed.