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Can video images imitate real stimuli in animal behaviour experiments?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 1998

Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, U.K. Present address: Behavioural Sciences Department, Animal Biology Division, Scottish Agricultural College, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JG, U.K.
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The use of video images in place of natural stimuli in animal behaviour experiments is reviewed. Unlike most other artificial means of stimulus presentation, video stimuli can depict complex moving objects such as other animals, preserving the temporal and spatial patterns of movement precisely as well as colour and sounds for repeated playback. Computer editing can give flexibility and control over all elements of the stimulus. A variety of limitations of video image presentation are also considered. Televisions and video monitors are designed with human vision in mind, and some non-human animals that differ in aspects of visual processing such as their colour vision, critical flicker-fusion threshold, perception of depth and visual acuity, may perceive video images differently to ourselves. The failure of video stimuli to interact with subjects can be a drawback for some studies. For video to be useful, it is important to confirm that the subject animal responds to the image in a comparable way to the real stimulus, and the criteria used to assess this are discussed. Finally, the contribution made by video studies to date in the understanding of animal visual responses is considered, and recommendations as to the future uses of video are made.

Review Article
Cambridge Philosophical Society 1998

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