avoidance learning

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The process of learning to avoid situations that appear to be dangerous. Natural stimuli that induce innate avoidance behaviour include those associated with predators. In its natural habitat, an animal that learned how to escape from predators by means of a trial-and-error procedure would survive for a few trials only. Animals usually have innate defence reactions that are modifiable by learning, and do not learn this kind of behaviour from scratch. Therefore, much depends upon the response that the animal is required to make to learn successful avoidance. Thus, pigeons (Columbia livia) readily learn to press a treadle to avoid shock, but have difficulty learning to peck a key. Rats (Rattus norvegicus) learn to run when escape is possible, and to freeze when it is not possible.

Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences.

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