Linguistic training, Natural conditioned reflexes...

Lesson learning

As has been repeatedly stated, like morphological characters, behavior is a kind of "business card" each type. Species-specific behavior is a complex intertwining of congenital and acquired elements. For the normal existence of a biological species, each of its representatives must master a certain minimum set of skills that make up the characteristics of his characteristic behavior. This complex German scientist G. Tembrok called obligate learning.

Obligatory learning is an individual experience necessary for survival for all representatives of a given species, regardless of the individual conditions of life of the individual.

The forms of training that are part of the complex of obligate learning, outwardly resemble instinctive behavior, but, nevertheless, are the result of the accumulation of individual experience in rigid, typical for this kind of framework. As K. Fabry points out, a representative of the biological species can be taught only to those forms of behavior that lead to the final phases of species-specific behavioral acts. Since reactions to random signs of each specific situation can not be programmed in the course of evolution, then for the manifestation of the species specificity of individual behavior the animal needs to be trained at the early stages of the most labile - the search stage of the instinctive act. So, for example, to form normal hunting behavior of a cat, the kitten needs training in a variety of methods of catching and killing prey. Since the range of instinctive acts for each species is limited, then the range of learning opportunities is highly species-specific. Therefore, despite any training, in the process of hunting, the cat uses only those techniques that are typical for this species. For example, a kitten, raised by a normal dog tax, will not pursue prey in a burrow, but will watch it at the exit of the burrow. A kitten, raised with hounds pups and never seen other cats, will also never pursue game with a voice.

The complex of obligate learning includes a number of forms of training, which, due to different biological preconditions, are distinguished by a high production rate.

Natural conditioned reflexes

Natural conditioned reflexes are called conditioned reflexes to natural stimuli, which are formed after the first encounter with an unconditioned stimulus. In the role of unconditioned stimuli, the taste and smell of food typical of this species are a danger that often must be avoided by representatives of this species, etc. Sometimes natural conditioned reflexes are considered as an intermediate step between conditioned and unconditioned reflexes.


Among natural conditioned reflexes, a so-called imprint - imprinting , which is very fast training certain vital actions. Imprinting can occur in strictly defined critical periods of ontogeny. Usually the imprint is carried out in early childhood and can occur only during a strictly defined sensitive period. If this period is missed, then later it will not be realized. A classic example of imprinting is the formation of the mother's reaction to the chicks of brood birds, or in modern terminology, the imprint of affection. This reaction is inherent in itself, but during the first hours after hatching chicks should capture the face of the mother. If chickens or ducks are seen during this period, chickens or ducklings will later be afraid of their real mothers. Moreover, a chicken or duckling who did not meet an appropriate object for imprinting an appropriate period in the future will be severely disrupted behavior: it will avoid contact with all living beings. If during this period a moving object, such as a soccer ball or a toy car, gets into the field of view of the chick, then it begins to react to it as to its mother and follow it everywhere.

For example, Lorenz grew geese and ducks of different species in isolation from their relatives during the first week of life and noted that such birds are imprinted on humans, and in the future they prefer to follow people, not birds of their species . Reflex acts performed by animals on the basis of information acquired through imprinting are usually fragments of instinctive reactions, so the need for their formation is genetically programmed. They are species-specific, and their education is almost as necessary as the existence of instincts themselves. Imprinting underlies a special group of key stimuli that play an important role in the implementation of instinctual reactions. Lorentz noted that, however, its properties significantly differ from ordinary associative learning, primarily because it occurs in a certain, rather narrow, limited period of ontogeny. The second difference is that the effect of imprinting is irreversible and does not fade under normal conditions. In this connection, the imprinting of an alien species by a bird can completely disorganize its social behavior in the future (Figure 6.5). Analyzing the phenomenon of imprinting and its role in the formation of behavior, Lorentz paid attention to its similarity to the process of organ differentiation in embryogenesis. In both cases, the presence of a sensitive period is a necessary condition for the realization of a definite form-formation reaction. This problem is described in more detail in the monograph by K. Lorenz Evolution and behavior modifications (Evolution and Modification of Behavior, 1965).

Fig. 6.5 . Imprinting:

a - normal imprinting of ducklings on the mother; b - imprinting ducklings on a dog

Classical imprinting is characteristic for ungulates and other mature mammals, as well as for brood birds and is characterized by exceptionally fast formation.

In addition to capturing the attachment that provides the contact of the mature babies or chicks of brood birds with the mother in the early period of ontogenesis, there is also the so-called sexual imprint , which ensures the correct choice of the sexual partner but reaching the animals of puberty. If the first form of imprinting is characteristic of brood birds and ungulates, the second form plays an important role in the formation of the behavior of the chicks and immature mammals. Thus, for example, in the experiments of Lorentz and his disciples, drakes, brought up by another type of duck, becoming adults, attempted to mate only with females of the kind of educator, ignoring the females of their own kind. Similarly, the representatives of the chickens behaved. The males of the zebra amadina, brought up by the Bengal amadines, later courted only females of the kind of educator. Unlike imprinting, the critical period of sexual seizure continues much longer. But the results of it are just as irreversible.

For more on the role of sexual imprint in the formation of animal behavior, see the chapter "Ontogenesis of Behavior."

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