Animal Studies of Attachment

  • Created by: April15
  • Created on: 06-01-20 20:54


  • Konrad Lorenz was an ethologist who published research around the 1930's. He investigated a type of attachment called imprinting.
  • Lorenz (1935) took a large clutch of eggs from a greylag goose and kept them until they were about to hatch. Half were placed under the goose mother and the other half Lorenz kept beside him for several hours. After hatching, the first group followed the mother and the second group followed Lorenz. Lorenz called this behaviour imprinting, he suggested that it is genetically determined and species-specific. 
  • Lorenz then put all the goslings together in an upturned box and allowed them to mix. When the box was removed, the two groups separated and went to their respective 'mother's'. Lorenz concluded that imprinting is unique in that it only occurs during a brief critical period (also in humans) early in the bird's life, and that once it has occured is irreversible. If no imprinting occurs within 24 hours of hatching, the goslinga will not be able to attach to a mother figure.
  • Lorenz also observed that imprinting was directly linked to later sexual behaviour, e.g. animals will choose to mate with the same kind of object upon which they were imprinted (sexual imprinting).


  • It is difficult to generalise the findings of Lorenz from bird species that are mobile from birth to attachments in mammals. 
  • It has been argued that Lorenz may have over stated the importance and permanence of imprinting. Guiton et al (1966) found that chickens who had imprinted on yellow rubber gloves would try to mate


No comments have yet been made