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Studies On Detour Behaviour

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Experiments were performed on 28 pups, 32-131 days old, both male and female, from 8 litters (5 bitches and 8 male dogs). The pups were controlled from birth and housed in large boxes where they had no occasion to go round any objects. Experiments were carried out in an empty room in the garden; the experimental place was partially divided into 2 parts by a partition of wire-netting (fig. I). At first preliminary training was performed. II pups were allowed to remain singly for 10-15 min. daily in the part in front of the partition only and 12 pups (8 of them trained singly and 4 in pairs)- in both parts of the compartment. The other 5 pups (3 of them trained singly and 2 as a pair) were at first allowed to run round a wire-net fence in the garden and then for several daily experiments, they remained singly in a room, in front of the partition only. At the beginning of every experiment, the animals usually received food in a bowl which was always put before the wire-net partition (circle in fig. I): when the dog finished eating, the bowl was immediately taken away. After some days a key experiment was performed. This consisted in placing the bowl behind the wire-net partition (circle with cross in fig. I), so that the pup had to make a detour round the partition to reach food. The key experiment was performed separately for each animal. It was found that most pups which were previously allowed to remain in the whole experimental place or which previously went round a fence in another situation, knew how to find the way round the partition to reach food. This task was easiest for pups preliminary trained in pairs. The animals however which had previously remained only before the partition and never made a detour round any object did not know how to go to the bowl and they found the way to food only by chance, according to the "trial-and-error" principle. These pups however were capable of learning how to make a detour round the obstacle; nevertheless about 6 experiments were required to make the reaction immediate (diagram I). Pups which had learned to make a detour round a definite obstacle knew also how to do it when the size and shape of the obstacle as well as the direction of going round it were changed; the pups knew in addition how to make a detour in other situations (in other room or in the garden). Each change caused a temporary increase in the time required to go round the obstacle. In 3 pups chronic extinction of the detour reaction was performed in the garden by setting an empty bowl behind the wire-net obstacle, i.e. the detour way discontinued to be reinforced. After about 50 repetitions of such a procedure over 20 days, the detour reaction was completely extinguished. After transferring the experiments to the room the pups showed a complete (1 animal) or almost complete (2 animals) inhibition of this reaction. After the restoration of the detour reaction in the garden, it become als renewed in the room. The conclusion drawn is that the detour reaction is a locomotor conditioned reflex which is acquired by an animal usually early in its life; this reflex is then widely generalized, i.e. it may appear in all conditions similar to those to which it was primarily established. Such a view makes understandable some facts obtained during the course of experiments, as the interruption of eating by a pup in order to go behind the wire-net partition or going there immediately after eating in spite of the absence of the bowl behind the obstacle (fig. 6) ; stopping in the place of the previous passage after a lengthening of the obstacle (fig. 9); going to the old feeding place when the bowl was put in another spot (fig. II). It is very probable that pups which were allowed to remain in the whole experimental compartment or to go round a fence in another situation during the preliminary training, acquired this reaction on the basis of an exploratory unconditioned reflex (in the case of singly trained pups) or a social unconditioned reflex (in the case of pups trained in pairs; it was frequently observed that both animals found themselves on opposite sides of the obstacle and one pup came to the other).

Affiliations: 1: (Department of Neurophysiology, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, Warsaw, Poland

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