Genetic Experiments with Animal Learning: A Critical Review

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Douglas Wahlsten, Visiting Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: The basic patterns of inheritance of learning ability in animals have been delineated. Summaries of strain differences in learning rate, responses to selective breeding for learning, heritabilities of learning phenotypes, and heterosis and overdominance are presented. In addition, the patterns of inheritance are shown to vary with the early environment.
The causes of genetic differences have received much attention, but much of the research is inconclusive. Both general learning ability and task-specific abilities are important, but their relative importance is not known for most learning tasks. Strain differences have been found to vary widely in response to variations in stimulus parameters, motivational levels, temporal spacing of trials, and pharmacological manipulations. However, in only a few cases have strain differences in learning actually been shown to be attributable to differences in sensory capacities, motivation, memory or activity levels. The physiological bases for differences are totally unknown. The pathways of gene action on learning also await discovery.
Although some researchers have claimed to study the adaptive value of learning, their exclusive utilization of laboratory populations precludes meaningful interpretation of their results.
Several methodological shortcomings of various experiments are considered, and important areas for future research are suggested.

Additional Information

Behavioral Biology, 1972, 7, 143-182.
Language: English
Date: 1972
Genetic factors, Influences, Behavior, Animal, Learning ability, Environmental effects

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