Winning a Pigeon Race with Classical Conditioning

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Pigeon racing has been a sport for hundreds of years now. With pigeons like the homing pigeon, who can navigate and return home from hundreds of miles, these birds have become the basis of pigeon racing. For lack of time, pigeon racing consists of a couple steps:
1. Pigeons are trained to come home.
2. Pigeons are clocked in and shipped out hundreds of miles for races.
3. Pigeons are released and the bird with the fastest average time upon entering the loft, wins.

Step 1 is the most crucial step in winning on race days. Having your pigeon clock into your loft as soon as it comes home. Pigeon fanciers have trained/conditioned their birds similar to that of Pavlov. At a young age, pigeons are introduced to a system. Every time during feeding, the pigeon fancier would whistle or shake a can as the birds ate. Once the pigeons were finished eating, the food tray's removed until the next feeding. The unconditional stimulus is the feed, the unconditional response is eating the feed, the conditional stimulus is the can shaking or whistling, and the conditional response is returning to the loft to eat. This process is repeated for almost a whole week before the birds are finally released out of the loft. While the birds are flying, if they hear the can or the whistling they swoop right down and into the loft as shown in the video.

During a race even seconds could determine the winner. If the pigeon fancier is disciplined and has trained the pigeons very often with their type of conditional stimulus, their pigeon trapping in could win the race. This is one way that classical conditioning has been used to train animals. What other animals have you seen classical conditioning applied to?

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B. F. Skinner also trained pigeons by using the principals of operant conditioning, specifically shaping.

Check out this funny video of pigeons playing ping-pong

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This page contains a single entry by xiong872 published on October 23, 2011 6:57 PM.

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