Using a behavior systems approach to study sexual conditioning in male Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) (#694)
The traditional learning view involves the general process theory of learning that focuses on identifying universal principles that apply to all species capable of learning from experience. Examples of behavior that contradict general-process conceptions of learning have been in the past referred to as “biological constraints” and as exceptions to otherwise universal principles of learning. On the contrary, the typical ethologist may more likely to be concerned with how specific behaviors evolved and in an animal’s species typical responses to stimuli they are likely to encounter in their natural environment. Perhaps the most successful attempt at a theoretical and methodological integration of animal learning and ethology has been the development of the behavior systems approach (Timberlake, 1983; 1994; Timberlake & Lucas, 1989). Behavior systems conceptualize experiential learning not as a set of universal principles, but as species typical processes that reflect the specific demands of the ecological niche in which the species evolved. Behavior systems have been developed for the analysis of learned defensive and feeding behaviors in rats (Fanselow, 1994, 1997; Timberlake, 1994), the development of pecking behavior and dustbathing in jungle fowl (Hogan, 1994) and the sexual behavior of male domesticated quail (Domjan, 1994). The latter example is the focus of the current presentation. Male Japanese quail display a wide range of behaviors prior to, during, and after mating. A behavior system has been developed that describes both unconditioned and Pavlovian conditioned effects of sexual behavior (Domjan, 1994). Conditioned effects are of particular interest because what an animal learns about predictive relationships between stimuli and responses ultimately reflects the potential demands of the particular ecological niche in which it has evolved. The purpose of the current presentation is to review and bring-to-date Domjan’s sexual behavior system and describe data that support the system.