Responses to unfamiliar stimuli. An animal's response to novelty depends partly upon the nature of the novel stimulus or situation, and partly upon the animal's internal state. When presented with a novel stimulus, a bird or mammal typically shows an orienting response, a reflex turning of the head or body so that the eyes and ears are focused on the object. The animal then pays attention to the object and this is usually accompanied by a certain amount of autonomic arousal. If a novel stimulus is presented repeatedly, habituation occurs.
When released into a novel situation, such as a new cage, animals initially show signs of fear and birds, especially, may remain motionless for a long time. This is often followed by curiosity and exploratory behaviour. The probability that a given novel situation will elicit exploration rather than fear, depends upon the animal's internal state. Animals that have recently had a frightening experience, or have been reared in isolation, are more likely to be wary of novel situations. Newborn animals investigate unfamiliar situations without signs of fear, but this boldness decreases with experience. As some situations become familiar, the response to novelty becomes increasingly fearful.
Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences.