Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford

Filial Imprinting

  • Giorgio VallortigaraEmail author
  • Elisabetta Versace
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_1989-1


Shortly after birth or hatching, the young of some animals, usually of precocial species, learn to recognize their mother and/or other social partners (e.g., siblings) by simply being exposed to them, and subsequently exhibit affiliative responses to them. Filial imprinting is thus a form of perceptual learning that serves to confine social preferences and social attachment to a specific object (or class of objects) as a result of exposure to that object (Bateson 1990).


Filial imprinting was known from antiquity and exploited by farmers and breeders. It was originally described in the scientific literature by Douglas Spalding and later studied and popularized by the ethologist Konrad Lorenz (1935).

Although imprinting phenomena have been described in mammals, they have been mostly studied in birds. Filial imprinting is most readily apparent in precocialspecies, i.e., those whose young are relatively mature and mobile soon after birth or hatching. Domestic...


Filial Imprinting Imprinting Object Sexual Imprinting Biological Motion Stimuli Animal Cognition Studies 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Mind/Brain SciencesUniversity of TrentoRoveretoItaly
  2. 2.Department of Biological and Experimental PsychologyQueen Mary University of LondonRoveretoItaly

Section editors and affiliations

  • Annika Paukner
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Comparative EthologyEunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human DevelopmentPoolesvilleUSA