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Annaliese K. Beery
Bachelor of Arts
Social motivation, Peer affiliation, Vole affiliation, Lever pressing, Conditioned place preference, Operant conditioning, Voles, Motivation in animals, Affiliation (Psychology) in animals, Voles-Behavior, Microtus pennsylvanicus-Behavior, Prairie vole-Behavior
Meadow and prairie voles are two very similar rodent species that have a key difference in their social structure. Prairie voles are socially monogamous and live in small groups all year long. Meadow voles are socially promiscuous, have multiple mates and only live in groups during the winter months. In tests of preference for familiar and unfamiliar conspecifics, both prairie voles and meadow voles will huddle with a partner over a stranger. Do these voles simply gravitate toward the familiar and away from a potentially threatening stranger, or is there an underlying reward to spending time with their partner? Two studies were developed to answer this question from different angles. In the first study, female peers were conditioned to prefer a location based on an association with their peer. Paired t-tests were used within groups to determine if subjects were conditioned to the testing paradigm and between groups to compare meadow vole affiliation to prairie vole affiliation. Meadow voles significantly preferred the nonsocial bedding in the post-test and prairie voles did not condition for peers. The second study used operant conditioning in order to assess whether voles were motivated to access peers or mates. Operant conditioning assigns a numeric value to reward making it possible to quantify. Subjects were taught to lever press in order to gain access to a mate or peer and the number of times they pressed the lever signified their level of motivation. Preliminary analysis demonstrates trends, however greater numbers of subjects will be needed for statistical validity. Overall trends suggest that pressing for a mate may be more rewarding than pressing for a peer.
Lopez, Sarah Anne, "Quantifying reward for social partners in two vole species" (2017). Honors Project, Smith College, Northampton, MA.
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