Konrad Lorenz – Geese Experiment (Imprinting)

Konrad Lorenz

Konrad Lorenz is responsible for an experiment that discovered the theory of imprinting. The experiment is detailed as this:

Date: 1935

Hypothesis: Goslings will follow the first large moving object that they see after hatching.

Null Hypothesis: The goslings will reject the first thing they see in favour of their biological mother.

Type of Experiment (experimental method): Field experiment.

I.V: Whether the goslings saw Lorenz or their mother first.

D.V: Who they imprinted on.

Sample: Lorenz took a batch of fertilised eggs and separated them into the experimental group and the control group.

Issues with the Sample: No noticeable problems have been reported with the sample. The only thing that may be questioned is the generalisability because of the fact that they were not human.

Procedure: Lorenz took the batch of fertilised eggs and split them into a control group and an experiment group. This is called  independent subjects design. He made sure that the experimental group saw him first after they hatched and that the control group went through the usual experience of seeing the mother goose as soon as they hatched. He then observed the results.

Observations: Lorenz observed that the goslings would follow him if he was the first thing they saw. The control group acted as he predicted and followed the mother goose. Lorenz followed this up by placing them all together and releasing them. He found that they separated to their “mothers”.

Findings: Lorenz concluded that the process of “imprinting” was a natural instinct and would cause the goslings to imprint on the first large moving object that they saw. He concluded this was due to the fact that they needed food and protection. He related this to natural selection by stating that if they did not learn this behaviour through evolution that they would die out leaving only the few that did. This is known as “Natural Selection”.  He also located a critical period of 32 hours. This meant that after 32 hours the goslings are very unlikely to imprint. He also found that the most probably time for the geese to imprint was 13- 16 hours.

Ecological Validity: This was done in a field experiment so has high ecological validity. Some people may question this because the experimental group were in fact incubated, most probably in a lab.

Internal and External Validity: The internal validity of this experiment is high as it accomplished what it had set out to do in the first place.  The external validity is high because of the fact that this applies to all geese but actually could be drawn into question because of the fact that they did not use humans so population validity is low.

Reliability: Lorenz’s results are replicated several times by other experiments and this means that the reliability of the experiment was high. Of many studies that replicated the findings of Lorenz using different animals. Sadly, it could not be replicated using humans due to the ethical problems of leaving a child “imprinted” on someone who is not their primary care-giver.

Generalisability:  As stated earlier the generalisability of the study is often questioned due to it’s low population validity. Lorenz did not use human infants and so would have a problem with relating it to human subjects.

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2 Responses to Konrad Lorenz – Geese Experiment (Imprinting)

  1. Pingback: John Bowlby | A Level Psychology Revision

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