Photographs, especially of humans, are widely used as stimuli in behavioural research with pigeons. Despite their abundant use, it is not clear to what extent pigeons perceive photographs as representing three-dimensional objects. To address this question, we trained 16 pigeons to identify individual, real-life humans. This discrimination depended primarily on visual cues from the heads of the persons. Subsequently, the pigeons were shown photographs of these individuals to test for transfer to a two-dimensional representation. Successful identification of a three-dimensional person did not facilitate learning of the corresponding photographs. These results demonstrate limitations of cross-recognition of complex objects and their photographs in pigeons.
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