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Publication Date


First Advisor

Annaliese K. Beery

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Social behavior, Voles, Operant conditioning, Prairie vole-Behavior


Social relationships are important to human health and well-being and these benefits extend across the animal kingdom. Prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) and meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus) are good models for the study as they form selective social relationships. The prairie vole shows a monogamous mating system and meadow voles show a polygynous mating system and both show peer bonding. The main way this behavior has been assessed in previous studies does not evaluate how rewarding the bonds are. In the present study I utilize operant conditioning to try and remedy this research gap. In a previous study, it was determined that there are sex differences between male and female prairie voles when looking at operant conditioning reward. The female voles appeared to work harder to gain access to familiar voles than the males did, but only one stimulus vole could be tested at a time. My project will allow for the relative reward value of two different social stimuli to be tested at the same time. The present study aims to deepen the understanding of the social reward in prairie vole bonds by looking specifically at males pressing for a mate versus an opposite sex female. The study utilizes a new apparatus which contains two social chambers and two levers in the operant chamber to allow for the direct competition between the mate and stranger.


©Emily R. Halstead Access limited to the Smith College community and other researchers while on campus. Smith College community members also may access from off-campus using a Smith College log-in. Other off-campus researchers may request a copy through Interlibrary Loan for personal use.




57 pages : color illustrations. Includes bibliographical references (pages 46-48)