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Perceptual Imprinting: Stimulus Preferences, Age Effects, and Genetic Canalization

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The separate and interactive influences of genetically variable unconditional stimulus preference, age effects, and genetic canalization were studied in relation to perceptual imprinting in Japanese quail chicks (C. coturnix japonica). The chicks were drawn from populations subjected to 21 generations of bidirectional genetic selection for unconditional approach preference between blue and red stimuli. They were tested for age and stimulus effects in perceptual learning from synergistic and conflicting exposures to the genetically preferred and genetically unpreferred colours. Unselected quail chicks were tested as genetic controls, and the qualitative influences of exposures to colours were controlled by comparable exposures to white and other preference-wise neutral stimuli. The results indicate robust and developmentally stable gene effects in the quail's unconditional colour choices, developmentally persistent but episodically variable learning from exposures to colours of genetically variable preference values, and systematic genotype-environment interactions. Discussion focuses on the canalizing role of genetically variable unconditional stimulus preferences in the early developmental of behaviour.

Affiliations: 1: (Research Department, The Menninger Foundation, Topeka, Ks 66601, U.S.A.

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