Project title: Stimulus categorisation during filial imprinting in male and female domestic chicks (Gallus gallus)
Summary: Objects appear different from different viewpoints, yet we are able to recognise them as the same object with little effort. While this can be explained by repeated experience with a specific stimulus, it remains unclear how objects can be recognised when there is limited experience. For instance, after a preliminary exposure to a conspicuous object (e.g. the mother hen), newly hatched chicks rapidly learn the characteristics of that object and then show affiliative responses toward it. This phenomenon is called filial imprinting. Previous research has also found that in the early stages of imprinting, young chicks prefer objects that are slightly different from the familiar. However, it is unknown how the boundary of familiar and unfamiliar is set, and whether chicks use categorical or continuous perception to discriminate between familiar and unfamiliar objects.
The aim of this PhD is to explore stimulus categorisation by studying the filial imprinting responses of male and female domestic chicks. I will analyse the male-female differences in the boundaries between familiarity and unfamiliarity, the roles of the right and left hemisphere in categorisation, and the time course of imprinting. The project will be conducted using an automated controlled-rearing approach, in which newly-hatched chicks are raised in controlled environments while their behaviour is recorded and analysed over the entire experimental period.