Pigeons and People Select Efficient Routes When Solving a One-Way "Traveling Salesperson" Task

Brett M. Gibson, Edward A. Wasserman, Alan C. Kamil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)244-261
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • navigation
  • problem solving
  • route learning
  • traveling salesperson problem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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