Social facilitation in animals

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Lovebirds are well known for mirroring the behaviour of their cage-mates, a form of social facilitation

Social facilitation in animals is when the performance of a behaviour by an animal increases the probability of other animals also engaging in that behaviour or increasing the intensity of the behaviour.[1][2] More technically, it is said to occur when the performance of an instinctive pattern of behaviour by an individual acts as a releaser for the same behaviour in others, and so initiates the same line of action in the whole group.[3] It has been phrased as "The energizing of dominant behaviors by the presence of others."[4]

Social facilitation occurs in a wide variety of species under a range of circumstances. These include feeding,[5] scavenging,[6][7] teaching,[8][9] sexual behaviour,[10][11][12][13] coalition formation,[14][15] group displays,[16] flocking behaviour,[17] and dustbathing.[18] For example, in paper wasp species, Agelaia pallipes, social facilitation is used to recruitment to food resources. By using chemical communication, A. pallipes pool the independent search efforts to locate and defend food sources from other organisms.[19]

Social facilitation is sometimes used to develop successful social scavenging strategies. Griffon vultures are highly specialized scavengers that rely on finding carcasses. When foraging, griffon vultures soar at up to 800 m above the ground. Although some fresh carcasses are located directly by searching birds, the majority of individuals find food by following other vultures, i.e. social facilitation. A chain reaction of information transfer extends from the carcass as descending birds are followed by other birds, which themselves cannot directly see the carcass, ultimately drawing birds from an extensive area over a short period of time.[6]

Moller used a play-back technique to investigate the effects of singing by the black wheatear (Oenanthe leucura) on the behaviour of both conspecifics and heterospecifics. It was found that singing increased in both groups in response to the wheateater and Moller suggested the conspicuous dawn (and dusk) chorus of bird song may be augmented by social facilitation due to the singing of conspecifics as well as heterospecifics.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Blackshaw, J.K. "Some basics of applied animal behaviour". Retrieved April 11, 2013.
  2. ^ Zajonc, R.B., (1965). Social facilitation. Science, 149: 269–274
  3. ^ Wheeler, L., (1966). Toward a theory of behavioral contagion. Psychological Review, 73: 179-192. doi:10.1037/h0023023
  4. ^ Galef, B.G. (2009). "Recent progress in studies of imitation and social learning in animals". Retrieved April 12, 2013.
  5. ^ Keeling, L.J. and Hurnik, F., (1996). Social facilitation acts more on the appetitive than the consummatory phase of feeding behavior in domestic fowl. Animal Behaviour, 52: 11–15
  6. ^ a b Jackson, A.L., Ruxton, G.D. and Houston, D.C. (2008). The effect of social facilitation on foraging success in vultures: a modelling study. Biology Letters, 4: 311–313. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2008.0038 PMC 2610049 PMC 2610049
  7. ^ Dally, J., Emery, N. and Clayton, N. (2006). Social facilitation of novel food acceptance in Rooks. Journal of Ornithology, 147: 154-154
  8. ^ Wauters, A.-M., Richard-Yris, M.-A. and Talec, N., (2002). Maternal influences on feeding and general activity in domestic chicks. Ethology, 108: 529–540. doi:10.1046/j.1439-0310.2002.00793.x
  9. ^ Boesch, C., (1991). Teaching among wild chimpanzees. Animal Behaviour, 41: 530-532 "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-02-07. Retrieved 2013-04-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Rees, P.A., (2004). Some preliminary evidence of the social facilitation of mounting behavior in a juvenile bull Asian elephant (Elephas maximus). Applied Animal Welfare Science, 7(1): 49–58
  11. ^ Mader, D.R. and Price, E.O., (1984). The effect of sexual stimulation on the sexual performance of Hereford bulls. Journal of Animal Science, 59: 294–300
  12. ^ Price, E.O., Smith, V.M. and Katz, L.S., (1984). Sexual stimulation of male dairy goats. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 13: 83–92
  13. ^ Evans, C.S. and Marler, P., (1994). Food calling and audience effects in male chickens, Gallus gallus - their relationships to food availability, courtship, and social facilitation. Animal Behaviour, 47: 1159–1170
  14. ^ Holekamp, K.E., Sakai, S.T. and Lundrigan, B.L., (2007). Social intelligence in the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta). Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B., 362: 523-538 doi:10.1098/rstb.2006.1993
  15. ^ Glickman, S.E., Zabel, C.J., Yoerg, S.I., Weldele, M.L., Drea, C.M. and Frank, L.G., (1997). Social facilitation, affiliation, and dominance in the social life of spotted hyenas. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 807: 175-184
  16. ^ Stevens, F.F., (1991). Flamingo breeding: The role of group displays. Zoo Biology, 10: 53-63
  17. ^ Lazarus, J. (1979). Flock size and behaviour in captive red-billed weaverbirds (Quelea quelea): implications for social facilitation and the functions of flocking. Behaviour, 71: 127-145
  18. ^ Olsson, I.A.S., Duncan, I.J.H., Keeling, L.J. and Widowski, T.M., (2002). How important is social facilitation for dustbathing in laying hens? Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 79: 285-297
  19. ^ Davies, Nicholas., Krebs, John., West, Stuart. 2012. An Introduction to Behavioral Ecology. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. p.160.
  20. ^ Moller, A.P., (1992). Interspecific response to playback of bird song. Ethology, 90: 315-320. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0310.1992.tb00842.x