IMPRINTING

Attachment of newborn babies to mothers is a species typical behavior that has received a lot of attention. Newly hatched ducklings, which walk as soon as they hatch, follow their mother almost immediately. Similar attachment occur in many other species.

The process by which attachment develops is called imprinting. Baby ducklings follow the first large moving object they see after hatching, especially if it makes duck sounds. Normally this is the mother, but if ducklings hatch in an incubator, they will form an attachment to a person, a large, moving orange ball, or almost anything else that is the first large moving object they see. The more effort they put into following this large moving object (normally mother duck), the more strongly they become attached. Clearly this is highly motivated behavior: its strength, persistence, and direction are defined by the species typical behavior. The effects of attachment show up even in adults, long after they no longer stay with their mothers. For example, adult ducks imprinted on a large orange ball, will try to mate with it.