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Effects of two types of priming on visual search in the blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

Miroslava Belik, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Foraging efficiency has profound effects on fitness in animals. Increasing components of visual search is especially important for animals that feed on cryptic prey that decrease search efficiency by blending in with the environment. Visually searching predators can use experience during search to facilitate detection of cryptic prey. Two main types of experience have been observed to produce facilitation. One of these is the repeated encounter of a specific type of cryptic prey which is thought to trigger an attentional state that focuses search for a specific prey type. This procedure is also referred to as the searching image or sequential priming. The other type of experience that produces facilitation of cryptic target detection is an association made between the cryptic target and a cue in its surroundings. This environmental cue can also trigger an attentional state which focuses search for a specific prey type. This procedure we refer to as symbolic priming. Priming processes have been studied primarily in humans and little is known about how they function in animals. In human literature, priming has been shown to facilitate the detection of hard-to find targets by providing a cue to the sought for targets' identity. This idea is applicable to animals as well. In the case of sequential priming the cue is the repeated encounter of a specific prey type and in symbolic priming the cue is the environmental cue associated with a specific prey type. The experiments described here address both sequential and symbolic priming in blue jays searching for cryptic prey stimuli using a semi-natural operant procedure. Results suggest that the two priming procedures are based on different cognitive mechanisms. Although each procedure results in facilitation of target detection, there is an interaction or interference between the two types of priming when they are used in conjunction. These experiments provide some of the first evidence of how different types of experience affect the detection of cryptic targets in animals.

Subject Area

Cognitive psychology|Zoology|Physiology

Recommended Citation

Belik, Miroslava, "Effects of two types of priming on visual search in the blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata)" (2002). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3064555.