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The Behaviour of a Model Animal

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1. The paper demonstrates the complex implications of the simple concepts of centres, drives and reciprocal inhibition in behaviour. 2. A model animal is described which can perform a number of discrete activities, each of which is controlled by a separate centre. The centres inhibit each other. The inhibition from each centre acts at the input to each of the others. When a particular centre is active, i.e. generating motor activity, the inhibition from it is sufficiently strong to suppress an equally stimulated rival; but the centre fatigues. Apart from adaptation and summation in the input pathways the model involves no other concepts. 3. In such a system only one centre can be active at a time. 4. The intensity of the activity performed is correlated with its drive only within certain limits and provided that the efficiency of performance remains constant. 5. The intensity of an activity usually declines during a bout and recovers to rebound after an interruption. However, an interruption may have almost any conceivable after-effect. 6. The threshold of a stimulus affecting one activity is influenced by stimuli acting indirectly through the centre controlling the ongoing activity, as well as by stimuli acting directly on the centre concerned. The threshold may not be well correlated with drive. 7. A stimulus which does not immediately elicit an activity may do so if the stimulus is sustained. The frequency distribution of latencies provides insight into the dynamic processes of adaptation, summation and fatigue and the mean latency is usually correlated with threshold. 8. If a transient stimulus elicits an activity, that activity may persist after the stimulus is withdrawn. Activities once started, persist even when the drive level which was necessary to elicit them has been reduced by their performance. 9. Different mechanisms of transition from one activity to another are discussed, together with the mechanisms determining sequences. 10. The test proposed by McFARLAND (1969) to distinguish between competition and disinhibition would classify some examples of disinhibition in the model as competition. No simple way of distinguishing the two processes in the model animal could be found. 11. Changes in bout length generated by the model duplicate the paradoxical results often observed in real animals. When the drive of two activities rises simultaneously, all bout lengths shorten. When only one activity is affected its bout length may lengthen or shorten. 12. Frequency may be positively, inversely or totally uncorrelated with drive. 13. Total time spent in an activity may increase or decrease with rising drive, depending on the changes in bout length that accompany the change in drive. 14. Total work done (e.g., water consumed) depends on both intensity and total time spent in the activity and so over short periods may not be closely related to drive level. 15. The assumption that the behaviour occurring at any time is the one with the dominant behavioural tendency (ATKINSON & BIRCH, 1970) can be applied to the model if behavioural tendency is equated with 'relative drive'. However it is more useful to equate behavioural tendency with 'absolute drive' in the model animal, in which case the above assumption must be abandoned. 16. In general the study shows that on the basis of a simple drive theory, the predicted relationships between many common measures of behaviour are unexpectedly complex. 17. While it is important to be aware of the dangers of oversimple theories, it is also important not to underestimate the limitations of many observations which cannot safely be used to distinguish between simple and complex systems. The fact that simple rules may be used to simulate extremely complex behaviour makes it very difficult to identify the nature of the real complexity which exists in real animals.

Affiliations: 1: (Agricultural Research Council Insect Physiology Group, Department of Zoology and Applied Entomology, Imperial College, London, U.K.


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