Volume 5: pp. 117-131

Determining When Birds Perceive Correspondence Between Pictures and Objects: A Critique

by Ronald G. Weisman,
Queen’s University

Marcia L. Spetch,
University of Alberta

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The use of pictures in avian visual cognition research has expanded over the past few decades but understanding of how birds perceive pictures has not kept pace. Separate evolutionary pathways and distinct differences in existent avian and mammalian visual systems mean that researchers cannot assume that birds see pictures the way humans do. In this article, the authors argue that, to avoid anthropomorphic errors, researchers need empirical evidence about correspondence between perception of their picture stimuli and perception of objects. The authors review a few promising instances of correspondence. The authors further argue that closer attention should be paid to characteristics of display methodologies and their appropriateness for avian vision. Finally, they argue that the field will benefit if journal reviewers and editors provide more useful guidance to researchers about adding evidence of correspondence between the pictures and the real-life objects researchers claim or imply that their pictures represent.

Keywords: animals, anthropomorphism, avian perception, birds, natural science explanation, object perception, perceptual correspondence between pictures and objects

Weisman, R. G., & Spetch, M. L. (2010). Determining When Birds Perceive Correspondence Between Pictures and Objects: A Critique. Comparative Cognition & Behavior Reviews, 5, 117-131. Retrieved from http://comparative-cognition-and-behavior-reviews.org/ doi:10.3819/ccbr.2010.50006