Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Monkey see, monkey do?

Did your mom ever say “Well if all your friends jumped of a bridge, would you?”

Can horses learn by observation? Again, Dr Camie Heleski, Michigan State University offered this explanation…

Observational learning is learning a behavior by watching others. There has been no published research that horses can learn either good behaviors or bad behaviors from watching other horses. In these experiments, some horses watched other horses being trained and some horses watched other horses engaging in stereotypies, such as cribbing, yet neither behavior appeared to be adopted.

Observational learning differs from social facilitation in that “social facilitation” mainly applies to a situation where all horses as a group engage in certain activities at the same time. For example, horses in a herd in a pasture will often go up to the front of the pasture for water at about the same time. Social facilitation may motivate an animal to learn an already instinctive behavior by observation, but it is more nearly like peer pressure or herd mentality.

So much for standing my horse at the in-gate, hoping he’ll memorize the course!