Social influences on rats' (Rattus norvegicus) preferences for flavored foods, scented nest materials, and odors associated with harborage sites: Are flavored foods special?
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We undertook in several experiments to determine whether the enhanced preference an observer rat (Rattus norvegicus) exhibits for a food after it interacts with a demonstrator rat fed that food reflects a general enhancement of the observer's preference for objects smelling like the food its demonstrator ate or results from a change in olfactory preference specific to foods. After an observer rat interacted with a demonstrator, it exhibited an enhanced preference for either cinnamon- or cocoa-flavored food that its demonstrator had eaten, but no change in its preference for similarly scented nest materials or nest boxes. The results are not consistent with the view that social influence on food choices of rats reflects a general enhancement of rats' preferences for objects bearing scents previously experienced while interacting with conspecifics. Rather, social influences on odor preferences appear to be restricted to scented foods.
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