Richard (Rick) Braaten

Back to Directory

Richard (Rick) Braaten

Professor of Psychology

Department/Office Information

Psychological and Brain Sciences
110B Olin Hall
  • MW 4:00pm - 5:00pm (110B Olin Hall)
  • T 1:30pm - 2:30pm (110B Olin Hall)


My recent research is concerned with constraints on song learning in birds. Birdsong learning is constrained in two ways. First, songbirds are more likely to learn the song of their species than the songs of heterospecifics, indicating constraints on the kinds of songs that are learned. Second, songbirds are more likely to learn songs presented during a specialized period of development, the sensitive period. Cognitive processes responsible for constraints on song learning are poorly understood. There has also been little research on how these constraints change with development.

My research is aimed at better understanding the cognitive processes that guide song learning, their potential role in selective learning of conspecific song, and possible changes in these processes with age and experience. Experiments involve operant conditioning methods to study how song learning in zebra finches is influenced by several processes, including reinforcement, attention, perceptual identification and categorization, and memory. In order to study possible developmental changes, the effects of these processes on song learning are assessed in zebra finches during and after the sensitive period for song learning. Effects of early experience are also evaluated by testing birds raised in acoustic isolation from zebra finch song.

The research is supported by Colgate University and the National Science Foundation.

BA, Duke University, 1982; MA (1988), PhD (1991), The Johns Hopkins University

Animal learning and cognition; cognitive and perceptual development; auditory learning and perception in songbirds

  • Braaten, R. F. (2010). Song recognition in zebra finches: Are there sensitive periods for song memorization? Learning and Motivation, 41, 202-212.
  • Braaten, R. F., Miner, S. S., & Cybenko, A. (2008). Recognition memory in juvenile zebra finches: Effects of varying the number of presentations of conspecific and heterospecific songs. Behavioural Processes, 77, 177-183.
  • Braaten, R. F., Petzoldt, M., & Cybenko, A. (2007). Recognition memory for conspecific and heterospecific song in juvenile zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata. Animal Behaviour, 73, 403-413.
  • Braaten, R. F., Petzoldt, M., & Colbath, A. (2006). Song perception during the sensitive period of song learning in zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 120, 79-88.
  • Benney, K. S., & Braaten, R. F. (2000). Auditory scene analysis in Estrildid finches (Taeniopygia guttata and Lonchura striata domestica): A species advantage for detection of conspecific song. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 114, 174-182.
  • Braaten, R. F. (2000). Multiple levels of representation of song by European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris): Open-ended categorization of starling song types and differential forgetting of song categories and exemplars. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 114, 61-72.
  • Braaten, R. F., & Reynolds, K. (1999). Auditory preference for conspecific song in isolation-reared zebra finches. Animal Behaviour, 58, 105-111.
  • Braaten, R. F., & Leary , J. C. (1999). Temporal induction of missing bird song segments by European starlings. Psychological Science, 10, 162-166.

NIMH Postdoctoral Fellow in Cognitive Development, University of Denver, 1991-1994

National Science Foundation Grant IBN-0212393, 2002-2005, principal investigator