Answer to Question #165667 in Psychology for Ana Linares

Question #165667

 Dr. Stuart is an ethologist. He is interested in studying antipredator behavior. Although there are numerous studies performed in the laboratory testing monkeys and other animals using rubber snakes, Dr. Stuart argues that these data are fundamentally flawed for several reasons. First, a toy snake will be missing cues that may trigger a response. For example, smell and movement might be strong cues that trigger a fight or flight response when an animal detects a predator. In addition, most animals tested in the laboratory have never lived in the wild. Also, laboratory conditions are very different from the natural habitat of these animals. Therefore it is difficult to determine whether a laboratory animal’s antipredator response is normal, or a product of the laboratory conditions. 

Dr. Stuart plans to address these problems by doing a field experiment in which mice are confronted with a live snake. He would like to test approximately 30 common field mice in a colony that he has been observing in a nearby grassy woodland area. Dr. Stuart will use common garter snakes as they live as predators. He will release the garter snake near a field mouse and observe the mouse’s response. He will also videotape the encounter for later analysis. He will try to remove the garter snake prior to any actual attack on the field mouse. In his proposal, Dr. Stuart notes that the experimental results cannot be directly applied to human behavior. He argues, however, that the experiment will address the shortcomings in previous research on antipredator behavior.

Expert's answer

Generally, animal's survival in the environment depends on their ability to sense danger. In the process of sensing danger, there is a variety of chemical process that helps predator's sense preys. For sensing ability to be effective, the animal, in this case, the garter snake, must have active Gruenberg ganglion. It is an olfactory subsystem that detects volatile environments. Therefore, real-life experiments are more different from laboratory experiments. Laboratory experiments are not effective because the toy animal does not have a natural sensory system that can make the experiment realistic. As a result, the social behavior of laboratory experimental animals and field experiments are far more different. Infield experiment, a prey, and a predator can decide to respond t

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