Auditory intensity discrimination in blackbirds and pigeons

Robert D. Hienz, Joan M. Sinnott, Murray B. Sachs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Three male and 3 female redwing blackbirds, 2 male brown-headed cowbirds, and 2 male White Carneaux pigeons were trained with operant conditioning techniques to respond to small increases in the intensity of pulsed tone trains at 3 frequencies: .5, 1.0, and 2.0 kHz. All 3 species produced similar intensity difference limens (DLs) at the frequencies tested. Intensity DLs decreased as sensation level (intensity level above absolute threshold) increased at all 3 frequencies, with the slopes of these sensation level functions being greatest at 2.0 kHz. The median intensity DLs at 50 db sensation level were 3.3, 2.7, and 2.9 db at .5, 1.0, and 2.0 kHz, respectively, averaged over the 3 species. Some Ss were also required to detect decreases in intensity. They produced intensity DLs 2-3 times larger than the DLs obtained when these same Ss were required to detect increases in intensity. Avian intensity DLs generally appear to be 1-2 db higher than the DLs of those mammals that have been tested (rat, cat, monkey, humans). (21 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)993-1002
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1980
Externally publishedYes


  • cowbirds &
  • increasing vs decreasing intensity of pulsed tone trains, auditory thresholds &
  • intensity discrimination, blackbirds &
  • pigeons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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