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Keywords:

  • bottlenose dolphin;
  • Tursiops truncatus;
  • matching-to-sample;
  • same/different judgments;
  • concept formation;
  • California sea lion;
  • Zalophus californianus

Abstract: Generalization of a rule is demonstrated if the rule governs a class of problem, and the subject, after successful experience with a limited number of problems, can apply the governing rule to new problems within that class. We show that the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) is capable of such generalization for classes of problems requiting the matching of one of two alternative stimuli to a “sample” stimulus to which the animal had been previously exposed, regardless of the sensory domain used: vision, passive listening, or active echolocation. We also show this generalization capability in a related class of problem requiring a judgment of whether a single “probe” stimulus is the same as, or different from, a stimulus or stimuli previously presented. Further, one dolphin was shown capable of developing a true abstract concept of same/different through its ability to categorize pairs of simultaneously presented objects as identical or not. The suggestion that such generalization ability of dolphins may be in question because of so-called exclusion effects is shown to be not tenable when the whole body of available data is considered.