Date: August 2011
Creator: Varnon, Christopher A.
Description: Events that occur early in the life of birds greatly influence social and sexual preferences throughout the course of life. Traditionally, this is explained by a learning process known as imprinting. Young birds are thought to imprint to early stimuli, causing the development of permanent preferences for those stimuli. In the present study, imprinting is examined with respect to behaviors of an adult human-reared pigeon in several conditions. The subject was either presented with no stimulus, a conspecific stimulus, a novel stimulus, a human stimulus, or the human and novel stimuli simultaneously. Several phases within these conditions were employed to pinpoint the variables that produced the most social and sexual behavior. The results showed that while some conditions produced unclear behavior, other conditions produced very clear indications of sexual preference for humans and fear of conspecifics. The results suggest that the concept of imprinting may not be needed to explain the sexual preference of the subject, and that operant contingencies may play a large role in sexual behavior.
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