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MCAT Biology Question — Behavior Science

Immediately after hatching, precocial birds, such as ducks or geese, are born with open eyes and the ability to walk. The hatchlings follow the first thing they see, which is typically their parent. A behavioral scientist studying this phenomenon observes the birth of a precocial bird, which immediately began to follow the scientist. Which of the following concepts best describes this behavior?


  1. Conditioning
  2. Imprinting
  3. Innate inheritance
  4. Parental misrecognition




This question asks the examinee to identify the concept that best describes a situation where an organism begins to follow whatever is in the closest proximity immediately after birth. This adaptation provides precocial birds with safety as they go out in search for food. Such a behavioral concept is termed imprinting when the newly born organism imprints on their parents, or in this case a human being. Thus, answer choice B is the correct answer.


Conditioning can be described as a learned response to a particular signal. For instance, an electrical shock that causes a physiological response that can be induced by an unrelated response such as a flashlight. Conditioning takes time to develop but eventually an identical action occurs in response to two unrelated and differing signals. In behavioral science, innate inheritance and parental misrecognition are not actual terms.


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