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Shepard's Universal Law Supported by Honeybees in Spatial Generalization

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An animal that is rewarded for a response in one situation (the S+) is likely to respond to similar but recognizably different stimuli, the ubiquitous phenomenon of stimulus generalization. On the basis of functional analyses of the probabilistic structure of the world, Shepard formulated a universal law of generalization, claiming that generalization gradients, as a function of the appropriately scaled distance of a stimulus from S+, should be exponential in shape. This law was tested in spatial generalization in honeybees. Based on theoretically derived scales, generalization along both the dimensions of the distance from a landmark and the direction to a landmark followed Shepard's law. Support in an invertebrate animal increases the scope of the law, and suggests that the ecological structure of the world may have driven the evolution of cognitive structures in diverse animals.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia

Publication date: 2000-09-01

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