Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Thomas Zentall


The social facilitation effect describes a change in the behavior of an individual due to the presence of another organism of the same species (i.e., a conspecific). Many theories exist that attempt to explain why this change in behavior exists across species. A set of four experiments were executed to best explain how pigeons learn in the presence of non-competing conspecifics. The first experiment sought to replicate an interesting effect previously found in cockroaches and rats, such that conspecific presence inhibits performance early in training but facilitates it with increased training. The second experiment placed the novel response acquired in the first experiment under stimulus control by means of a go/no-go task in which responding in the presence of one stimulus was reinforced but responding in the presence of another was not. Pigeons have long served as a model for problem gamblers and impulsivity; however, previous research has found that daily interaction with other pigeons following each testing session reduces the likelihood of choosing the suboptimal alternative. As a result, the third experiment attempted to understand how the mere presence of a conspecific within an experimental session affects the proportion of optimal and suboptimal choice in a gambling paradigm. Finally, the fourth experiment sought to determine which of two competing explanations of the social facilitation effect – the motivational drive theory or the attentional distraction-conflict hypothesis – best explains the phenomenon in nonhuman animals using a response-conflict task similar in principle to one used previously with humans. Taken together, these four experiments clarify in part the role other animals play in the classic solo-learning model.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)