Key attraction

as key attraction applies within the instinct theory an attraction sample (thus a specific attraction or a combination of certain characteristics), which is answered with perception with an instinct movement. Frequently such an attraction also trip is called, above all if it proceeds from management and industryand the social behavior affects; further common synonyms are signal attraction and perception signal. The representatives of the classical comparative behavior research call the attraction filter, which separates a recognizing of the trips made possible, thus “relevantly” from “irrelevant” and sets at the same time the species-characteristic instinct movement on, innate release mechanism (AAM).

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key attraction and AAM

the terms „key attraction “and - in the Gestalt psychology - „shape “developedat the beginning of as addition of since approx. 1900 usual interpretation of behavior as bare chain of reflexes, since one had to subordinate a beginning of the reflex chains for purely logical reasons, speak: noticing a behavior-causing situation. The representatives of the instinct theory supplemented the attraction reaction concept therefore overthe components key attraction, innate release mechanism (AAM) and internal action readiness.

The very descriptive term „key attraction “the conception is the basis that the releasing characteristics, be inserted its beard can resemble a key properly matching into a lock and this opens. The construction units of the lock and their arrangementcorrespond to the innate release mechanism (AAM). Since the AAM sets also the following instinct movement of the individual on, also the mechanics must be attributed to him - to remain over in the picture - to open the door as „construction unit “.

A key attraction can by coinage in a certain,sensitive life phase to be also learned.

characteristics and effects of key attractions

a key attraction one describes regularly in such a way in the ethologischen literature:

  • it is simply, i.e. it consists of only few characteristics;
  • it is remarkable;
  • it is clear.

Differently formulates: The behavior-releasing attraction has A symbol character, it is abstract; not „the female “is noticed for example as trip for Balzverhalten, but a certain kind-typical colouring in combination with a certain smell and a Balzgesang.

This example makes at the same time clear that a key attraction assigned and it the following behaviorin most different way to be released can, in particular:

  • visually: for example by a special movement succession;
  • chemically: for example by pheromones
  • acoustically: for example by certain warning calls
  • tactile: furthermore for example by the placing of „wedding gifts “at

the nest a certain key attraction is always assigned to a certain reaction.

  • The vibration of the nest by landing parents causes a closing of the bills with blind Amselnestlingen. Color and color patterns of the opened bills of the boys cause a feeding with the parents animals.
  • , A small object flying in small distance solves the rapid past with the frog andarranged stretching of the sticky tongue out.

Furthermore key attractions can be differentiated according to their effect:

  • if they are arranging, they release taxis , that are an adjustment on a certain object or on management and industry;
  • if they (strictly speaking) are releasing, a final action follows them directly .

as I recognize a key attraction?

In order to determine, how a key attraction is constituted, which releases an instinct movement, attempts with mockups undertaken.

  • Blackbird boy for example first the plugging preparation of a blackbird becomespresented. If the boys can already see, causes not only an alive parents animal a closing, but also such a preparation. Now gradually this mockup is changed and simplified ever more. After each change the reaction strength is measured, speaks: As rapid and as intensivedo the boys close their bill after the presentation of the mockup up? Finally one receives a mockup, which resembles hardly still the stuffed blackbird of the beginning of the test series, which causes a closing reliably however nevertheless almost directly as the living animal and the befiederte plugging preparation. InExample exists „abstrakteste “mockup from two together adhesive black disks, whereby the upper disk (as it were as symbol for „head “) must be somewhat smaller than the lower disk (the symbol for „bodies “). Now by the test leader the characteristic is attributed to this extremely simple, schematic mockup „key attraction “.
  • Similarly the behavior of a butterfly could be interpreted, which finds its potential Sexualpartnerin over large distances away. It follows that gradients of certain smell molecules (pheromones), whereby the specific odoriferous substance releases a specific instinct behavior („female search “) and an individual molecule of the pheromone as it were for „females “stands.However in the behavior ecology the term key attraction is usually avoided.
  • A house mouse - nut/mother, that draws Nestlinge up, will return these young animals to her nest (“to register”), if they are inadvertently guessed/advised from the nest. As releasing attractions many behavior researchers had (among other things into that1950er years also Irish from Eibl Eibesfeldt) the cheeping sounds of the Nestlinge described. It could be shown however (waving man 1989) that also dead boy and even Kadaverteile are registered - the plausible allocation of the sound expressions as key attraction to the entry behavior proved with more exact analysis than wrong;but until today it could not is surely clarified whether one instead as the most important factor has to regard the smell.

to the controversy about the key attraction concept

“innate recognizing” of a biologically relevant environmental situation was proven by behavior researchers and neuro physiologists often and is considered as secured- less secured is however, as exactly the environmental attraction must be constituted, which can be answered owing to the postulated AAM situation-suitably. It is furthermore problematic that it itself with the interaction of key attraction, AAM, action-specific energy and instinct movement always only around a reaction recognizable for the observeron an outside attraction to act it can that purely internal processes remain thus excluded. Besides occasionally key attractions were postulated, which turned out with more exact analysis of the behavior than rough misunderstandings (see. for this: Biting inhibition).

In the ethologischen technical literature a key attraction becomes besides regularly by itsAbility defines to set those free by a AAM at „the drain “prevented action-specific energy and release so an instinct movement. Nevertheless in reverse regularly the AAM (thus showing a situation-suitable behavior) is proven as voucher for the existence of a key attraction - which corresponds to a circle conclusion.

These definition difficulties,Uncertainties when accurate describing the characteristics, the one key attraction constitute and the absence of any physiological correspondence too action-specifically made available „energies “have among other things 1990 Wolfgang rewinding stand and 1992 Hanna Maria Zippelius arrange to demand offensively the renouncement of the instinct model of the classical comparative behavior research. Also Klaus Immelmann had already 1987 in from him answered for and particularly from teachers about Psychobiologie the term key attraction not even more to the key word register taken up rezipierten Funkkolleg.

Nevertheless other Ethologen records key attraction to the very descriptive term not least for didactical reasons. Asgenerally accepted principle for causing any behavior is not any longer regarded the key attraction concept in addition, of the remaining representatives of the instinct theory - to separate rather in the sense of the often quoted rule that the general principle from yesterday becomes to the special case today.


  • Neumann, Gerd Heinrich and Scharf, Karl-Heinz:Behavior biology in research and instruction. 1994: Cologne (Aulis publishing house Deubner) ISBN 3-7614-1676-8

the book contains a comprehensive representation and an offensive justification of the classical key attraction concept; it written as answer up:

  • Hanna Maria Zippelius: The presumptuous theory. A critical argument alsothe instinct theory of Konrad Lorenz and verhaltenskundlicher research practice. Braunschweig: 1992 (Vieweg), 295 S., ISBN 3-528-06458-7
  • Karl-Heinz waving man: To the effect of disruptiver selection on the behavior of house mice: Register from Nestlingen, further elements of the breeding care behavior and exploring. Science publishing house. Dr. Wigbert Maraun, Frankfurt 1989 (Diss. Univ. Frankfurt), To ISBN 3-927548-18-9

see also


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