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Transcript of Animal Behaviour
Animals learn to ignore certain stimuli because repeated exposure to the stimulus results in neither a reward nor a punishment.
It's why birds learn to ignore scarecrows. It's also important in screening out the many non-dangerous stimuli in the environment such as the sound of wind and waves. Habituation allows humans living near rail or road links to sleep without constant awakening in response to noise stimuli. It avoids wasting energy in making escape responses to non-harmful stimuli.
"Mind Mapping" Animal Behaviour
By Nicole Makomva
This is regarded as the highest form of learning. It's based on the ability to think and reason in order to solve problems or deal with situations in ways that don't resemble fixed, reflex response or the need for repeated trial and error. Once solved, the solution to the problem is remembered. In wolfgang Kohler's work, chimpanzees (pan troglodytes) were presented with bananas hung out of reach and a set of boxes. The chimps were able to stack the boxes on top of each other to reach the bananas. Since then, behaviour among other apes, such as gorillas, orang-utans and gibbons, has been studied.
Many organisms demonstrate social behaviour, from insects, such as bees, to humans. Some advantages are:
Females give birth to only one (or very few) infants at a time. The maternal care and group protection enhances the survival rate of the young.
The young learn by observing other members of the group and playing with them.
The final relatively large brain size slows the maturation of primates. The security of a group enhances the survival and learning of immature young
Greater ability to detect and deter predators is achieved by groups of individuals working together.
Classical and Operant Conditioning
Pavlov's dog. Before conditioning the dog would salivate at the sight or smell of food. The food was an unconditioned stimulus and the salivation was an unconditioned response. He began ringing a bell when he was about to bring the food and the dogs soon began to salivate without having smelt or seen the food. The ringing is known as a
which leads to a new reflex action called a
Animals can learn to relate a pair of events and respond to the first in anticipation of the second. This type of learning is passive and involuntary. Pavlov used other conditioned stimuli including the ticking of a metronome and even gunshots in order to elicit the conditioned response.
A kinesis is an orientation behaviour where the rate of movement increase when the organism is in unfavourable conditions. The behaviour is 'non-directional', meaning that the response is to change the rate of meovement overall in relation to the intensity of the stimulation, not in any particular direction. For example, woodlice will move around rapidly and randomly until they are in more suitable conditions if placed in dry/bright conditions. This is purely a physiological response; they don't actively seek a dark, damp area.
refers to animal responses that change or adapt with experience. There is a range of learned behaviours identified, from simply learning not to respond to a repeated stimulation, to the ability to consider a problem and formulate a soultion. This type of behaviour has the greatest survival benefit to animals
with a longer lifespan and so time to learn
with an element of parental care of the young, which involves learning from parents
living for a part of the time at least with other members of the species in order to learn from them.
The main advantage of this behaviour over innate behaviour is that it's adapted in response to changing circumstances or environments.
A taxis is a 'directional' orientation response. The direction of movement is described in relation to the stimulus which triggers the behavioural response.
Positive phototaxis is towards, and negative phototaxis is away from, light stimulus.
Positive chemotaxis is towards, and negative chemotaxis is away from, a specific chemical.
An example of taxis is seen in the nematode worm. Chemoreceptors in its lips sense chemical signals in the air, and the animal moves its head from side to side in order to compare signal strengths and detect the direction of a chemical gradient before moving its whole body up (positive chemotaxis) or down (negative chemotaxis) the gradient.
Examples of innate behaviour
Invertebrates rely on three types of innate behaviour for their survival. These behaviours allow them to escape, locate and stay in a suitable habitat, and locate food.
Many invertebrates have an escape reflex, the function of which is to avoid predators. E.g. earthworms withdraw underground in response to vibrations on the ground.
Genetically determined and so environment has no impact on behavioural response. Passed on to offspring via reproduction
Rigid and inflexible
Patterns of behaviour are the same (stereotypical) in all members of a species.
Unintelligent - the organism probably has no sense to the purpose of the behaviour
Animals behave in ways that enhance their survival and reproductive capacity. Behaviour patterns cn be simple or complex, and can range from genetically programmed behaviour to learned behaviour that is significantly influenced by the environment.
This usually involves young animals becoming associated with (imprinting on) another organism - usually the parent. In work by
, goslings were shown to follow the first moving thing they see on hatching. After that, they will only follow (and learn from) objects that look like the first object.
This only occurs in a sensitive period (a.k.a
). This is around 36 hours after hatching on goslings, less in young chicken. It's significant in helping the young to learn skills from the parents. Skills like flight in birds and knowing to seek out the appropriate type of organism for mating.
Classifying Learned Behaviours
Skinner's box. Skinner became interested in creating a specific behavioural reaction to a stimulus by adding an element of reward or punishment. In several experiments using rats and pigeons in a Skinner box he showed that animals in the box would at first accidentally press a lever which resulted in the reward of a food pellet. This reward led to increasing frequency of pressing the lever because the animals had learned to associate the operation (hence
) of pressing the lever with the reward of food. A variety of rewards and punishments (reinforcers) can be used in conditioning animal behaviours. Training of dogs is based on attention from owners. Monkeys - social rewards i.e. seeing others monkeys. This type of learning is active and to an extent voluntary. In natural circumstances operant conditioning is referred to as
trial and error learning
Advantages of Social Behaviour in Primates
Latent (exploratory) Learning
Animals will explore new surroundings and retain information about their surroundings that is not of immediate use but may be essential to staying alive at some future time. Young rabbits explore the surroundings of their burrows, learning the features of the environment. Tis knowledge can be life saving if it helps the rabbit escape a predator in later life.
Latent (exploratory) Learning