Conditioned taste and visual aversions in chicks: effects of social transmission of acquired behavior

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Studies involving social learning have shown that social interactions are influential in directing an individual's behavior toward relatively neutral stimuli. The present study investigated the possibility that social interactions direct an individual's behavior toward aversive stimuli. Following aversion conditioning to a visual (red water) or taste (3% vinegar) CS, 80 chicks individually observed an audience of two conspecifics ingest the aversive CS or observed a nondrinking audience in the presence of the CS. Observation of a drinking audience reduced the magnitude of the aversion to the visual CS but not to the taste CS. This effect was demonstrated in latency to respond and in log intake. The differences in observational training effects found for the visual CS but not for the taste CS may have been due to differences in visual appearance between red water and vinegar. Percent intake data revealed no differences in strength of conditioning between red water and vinegar. Subjects were retested five days following the last day of initial testing. No evidence was found for observational training effects in retention. Findings were interpreted by the classical conditioning model.