Regulation of social contact in laboratory rats: Time, not distance

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Several studies have shown that rats regulate affiliative behavior, becoming more affiliative after social isolation and less affiliative after satiation. To determine if they regulate (a) time devoted to social activities or (b) distance between animals, both time and distance were measured in a 4-ft or 12-ft diameter circular open field. In an experiment involving 45 male hooded rats, it was found that (a) social distance varied with field size, but time in social contact did not; (b) Ss showed no propensity to keep any social distance other than zero; (c) noncontact distances were large, close to chance; and (d) time was more sensitive statistically than distance to variations in affiliative motivations. Thus, time was the critical dimension used to regulate affiliative encounters. Time may also be the dimension along which noncontact species regulate affiliation. (43 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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