Based at the School of Psychology
Discrimination learning, spatial learning, associative learning theory
Research Interests and Facilities
My principal research interest is with understanding how animals solve discriminations. I have developed a formal theory, in the form of a connectionist network; to explain how relatively simple discriminations are solved. My research is currently directed at extending the application of the theory to more complex discriminations based on, for example, biological movement and spatial relationships. My other research interest is concerned with identifying the mechanisms of spatial learning that allow an animal to locate a hidden goal by referring to landmarks that are some distance from it.
Studies of discrimination learning take place in standard conditioning chambers for rodents and birds, fitted with TFT screens for presenting the discriminative stimuli. Spatial learning is studied in rats and pigeons using arenas with well defined geometric shapes and computer-controlled tracking equipment.
Available PhD Projects
- The role of attention in discrimination learning
- The representation of cues in spatial learning.
Pearce, J. M. (2008). Animal Learning and Cognition: An Introduction. Third Edition. Hove: Psychology Press
Pearce, J. M., Esber, G. R., George, D. N., & Haselgrove, M. (2008). The nature of discrimination learning in pigeons. Learning and Behavior, 36, 188-199.
Pearce, J. M. (2009). An associative analysis of spatial learning. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 62, 1665-1684
Dopson, J. C., Esber, G. R., & Pearce, J. M. (2010). Differences in the associability of relevant and irrelevant stimuli. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 36, 258-267
Horne, M. R., Gilroy, K., Cuell, S. F., & Pearce, J. M. (2012). Latent spatial learning in an environment with a distinctive shape. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 38, 139-147
Pearce, J. M., Good, M. A., Jones, P. M., & McGregor, A. (2004). Transfer of spatial behavior between different environments: Implications for theories of spatial learning and for the role of the hippocampus in spatial learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 30, 135-147.