An opponent-process theory of motivation: VI. Time and intensity variables in the development of separation-induced distress calling in ducklings

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Studied the development of separation-induced distress vocalizations in 4 experiments with 81 newly hatched Khaki Campbell ducklings that were given repeated, brief exposures to an imprinting stimulus. Distress calling following successive presentations and withdrawals of the stimulus was found to be independent of the overall amount of stimulus exposure, but it varied as a function of stimulus intensity, stimulus duration, and the interval between stimulus events. The variables affecting the initial development of distress calling also influenced the intensity of Ss' subsequent reactions to separation, as measured in retests at 96 hrs posthatch. Suppression of distress calling in the presence of the stimulus was not similarly affected. Results are interpreted to reflect the critical decay duration of an aversive opponent process: Following initial exposure, distress calling will increase in rate only if subsequent presentations fall within this critical decay duration. Otherwise, it will remain relatively constant. The critical decay duration of the opponent process is, in turn, a function of both the duration and the intensity, or salience, of the stimulus event. Findings are in agreement with the opponent-process theory of motivation, if one assumes that distress calling measures the aversive opponent process engendered by the positively reinforcing stimulus. (26 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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