Acta Colombiana de Psicología
Print version ISSN 0123-9155
Current theories that attempt to explain mating preferences have placed particular emphasis on genetic determinants. They state that sexual preferences of females and sexual features of males evolve concurrently given the fact that male features are a reliable indicator of the presence of "good genes" which favor offspring survival. An alternative hypothesis explains mating preferences by means of a learning mechanism. An example of this approach is the theory of learning by imprinting proposed by Konrad Lorenz. This experiment aimed to evaluate the effects of different types of early breeding practices on later mating preferences. For this purpose, 35 quail chicks, 15 days old, were selected and split into four groups: (1) a group of 9 male chicks which were individually raised in the company of a mature three months old female; (2) a group of 9 female chicks which were individually raised in the company of a mature three months old male; (3) a group of 9 male chicks, which were raised alone in individual cages and without visual contact with other members of their species; and (4) a group of 8 female chicks which were raised alone in individual cages and without visual contact with others of their species. Subjects were exposed to these conditions for a period of three months. Later, each one of the animals underwent a mating preference test where the time that an animal spent observing a potential partner (the partner the chick had been raised with and a different partner) was measured during a 10minutes trial for10 days. Results show that 50 percent of the18 chicks that formed the groups of males and females raised in a pair fashion, presented significant differences in mating preferences (23 percent in favor of the breeding partner and 27 percent in favor of a different partner). But in the group of 17 chicks that were placed in the condition of individualized breeding, only 12 percent of the male chicks showed significant differences in their preference for a specific partner. When comparing the various rearing conditions by means of an ANOVA, significant differences were obtained between them: F (7, 663) = 2,072, P <0, 05. The results of this experiment suggest that rearing conditions have a differential effect on males and females in terms of mating preferences and seem to have a greater impact on females.
Keywords : Social experience; mating preferences; sexual selection; imprinting.