Enduring social enhancement of rats' preferences for the palatable and the piquant
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In three experiments on the social induction of food preferences in rats, I found: (a) that eight 30-min exposures of a naive "observer" rat to a "demonstrator" rat fed one of two approximately equipalatable diets produced observer preference for the diet fed to its demonstrator that lasted for more than a month, (b) that simple exposure of naive subjects to a diet itself, rather than to a rat that had eaten a diet, was not sufficient to enhance preference for that diet, and (c) that lasting preference for an unpalatable, piquant diet could also be established by exposing naive rats to demonstrators that had eaten the piquant diet, but not by simply exposure to the piquant diet itself. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis proposed by both Birch and Rozin that social-affective contexts are important in establishing stable, learned preferences for foods.
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