Interactive behaviour in pigeons: Visual display interactions as a model for visual communication
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Four experiments are presented that explore social interactivity in a visually communicating species: the pigeon, Columba livia. A closed-loop teleprompter system was used to isolate, control and manipulate social contingency in a natural courtship interaction. Experiment 1 tested different ways to measure pigeon behaviour and developed an automatic method for measuring the pigeon’s circle walking display using motion energy analysis. In Experiment, 2 the subject’s courtship behaviour towards the video image of an opposite sex partner streamed live (Live), was compared with their behaviour towards a pre-recorded video image of the same partner (Playback). The only difference between the Live and Playback condition was the presence or absence of social contingency. The results showed that pigeons behaved interactively: their behaviour was determined, in part, by the social contingencies between visual signals. To investigate what types of social contingencies are behaviourally relevant, the effects of the partner’s facing direction and the timing of social contingencies on behaviour were investigated in Experiment 3 and 4, respectively. To manipulate partner facing direction, the camera was rotated so that the partner appears to be courting 90° away from the subject. To manipulate social timing, three time delays, 1, 3 and 9s, were implemented within the closed-circuit communication. In Experiment 4, the context-specificity of interactive behaviour was also investigated by testing behavioural sensitivity to social contingency and timing in both opposite sex and same sex social interactions. The results showed that the partner’s facing direction did not significantly influence behaviour, whereas the timing of social contingencies had a significant impact on behaviour: in courtship only. These findings suggest that temporal relations between display bouts in courtship are behaviourally relevant. A post hoc analysis was then used to evaluate the behavioural relevance of two social contingencies in particular: partner responsiveness and simultaneous display. The results showed that females may be sensitive to the male responsiveness in courtship. Also, simultaneous display appeared to create a perceptual interaction which acted to potentiate the courtship dynamic. These studies provide a basis for further developing the pigeon and its courtship behaviour as a model for visual communication.