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Social visual contact, a primary “drive” for social animals?

Laurence Henry
Hugo Cousillas
Martine Hausberger
Isabelle George


Social animals are always searching for con-specifics, thereby expressing a genuine ‘social need’’. This need is illustrated by the fact that social isolation can induce isolation syndromes that can be attenuated by devices such as mirrors. Social contacts appear to be so vital for social animals that they may be ready to work to obtain social stimulations. We used here operant conditioning to investigate the possibility to use visual contact (through pictures of same sex conspecifics) as a primary reinforcer. Isolated males European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) were offered the choice of seeing either social images (i.e. pictures of con-specifics) or non-social images (i.e. pictures of landscapes or pictures of monkeys) by triggering sensors. In contrast with most studies, our subjects were presented still pictures of conspecifics and not videos. Moreover, these pictures were used as primary reinforcers and thus were not paired with food. Our data show that starlings were ready to work and to use the apparatus (i.e. sensors) to see pictures in the absence of any other reward. Moreover, they actively and significantly preferred pictures of conspecifics to pictures of inanimate objects (landscapes) or of heterospecifics (monkeys). This suggests that 2D pictures with a social overtone can be used as primary reinforcers for isolated social birds.
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Dates and versions

hal-01347057 , version 1 (20-07-2016)


  • HAL Id : hal-01347057 , version 1


Laurence Henry, Audrey Perret, Marion Coulon, Hugo Cousillas, Martine Hausberger, et al.. Social visual contact, a primary “drive” for social animals?. 8th European Conference on Behavioural Biology, Jul 2016, Vienne, Austria. . ⟨hal-01347057⟩
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