Social effects on development of food preferences
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The purpose of this study was to answer the question as to whether the food preferences of the young are dependent on the social influence or not. The experiments were conducted on female cats bearing electrodes implanted in the mid-lateral hypothalamus, and their weanling kittens. Each mother was given a self-stimulation test; the mother which learned to press a lever for thge hypothalamic stimulation reward were chosen for the experiment. Each mother, always 4 h food deprived before the session, was given a choice of meat pellets and banana slices. Eating bananas was rewarded by the hypothalamic stimulation wheras eating meat pellets was not; as a result, the mother concentrated only on eating bananas while ignoring meat pellets. In the following sessions one or two weanling kittens were always accompanying the mother during the session. It was found that 15 out of 18 weanling kittens used in this experiment joined the mothers in eating bananas. After separation from the mothers these kittens continued to choose bananas and ignore meat pellets when tested in the absence of the mother. Control kittens of the same age, which were never trained with the mother, refused to eat bananas. Similar results were obtained with other mother-kittens groups in which mashed potatoes or plain jelled agar were given instead of bananas. These result suggested that the food preferences of the weanling kittens were influenced by the mother's choice of food, evenin the case when this food was unusual for the species.
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