Conditioned suppression/avoidance as a procedure for testing hearing in birds: The domestic pigeon (Columba livia)

Henry E. Heffner, Gimseong Koay, Evan M. Hill, Rickye S. Heffner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Although the domestic pigeon is commonly used in learning experiments, it is a notoriously difficult subject in auditory psychophysical experiments, even those in which it need only respond when it detects a sound. This is because pigeons tend to respond in the absence of sound-that is, they have a high false-positive rate-which makes it difficult to determine a pigeon's audiogram. However, false positives are easily controlled in the method of conditioned suppression/avoidance, in which a pigeon is trained to peck a key to obtain food and to stop pecking whenever it detects a sound that signals impending electric shock. Here, we describe how to determine psychophysical thresholds in pigeons using a method of conditioned suppression in which avoidable shock is delivered through a bead chain wrapped around the base of a pigeon's wings. The resulting audiogram spans the range from 2 to 8000 Hz; it falls approximately in the middle of the distribution of previous pigeon audiograms and supports the finding of Kreithen and Quine (Journal of Comparative Physiology 129:1-4, 1979) that pigeons hear infrasound.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-392
Number of pages10
JournalBehavior Research Methods
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Audiogram
  • Avoidance conditioning
  • Conditioned suppression
  • Infrasound
  • Pigeon
  • Psychophysical procedures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Conditioned suppression/avoidance as a procedure for testing hearing in birds: The domestic pigeon (Columba livia)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this