New paper on the role of social motivation in song learning

zebra finch

A new article in the Cornell Chronicle reports on our latest paper investigating the role of social motivation in learning how to communicate.  Infant songbirds and humans learn from social feedback to their immature behavior, but the mechanisms linking social motivation to communicative development are unknown.  In our new paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, we manipulated social motivation in songbirds via early-life injection of the hormone arginine vasotocin (AVT), which regulates social behavior and learning.  We found that AVT-injected birds learned significantly better song from their fathers than those injected with an AVT blocker.  Thus early differences in social motivation can lead to dramatic variation in communicative outcomes, and may play an important role in social developmental disorders.