Crowding into the behavioral sink

By Min and David

Topic: Crowding into the behavioral sink

Theoretical Propositions: Calhoun wanted to explore the effects of high density on social behavior. To study his theory, he used rats. He believed rats that lived in low density(paradise) will result much greater mortality rate than rats that lived in high density place. He already knew that density effect people’s behavior and he did experiments to find out why.

Method: 32 or 56 rats were placed in a 10-by-14-foot laboratory which was divided into four sections with pen. Pen 1 and 4 was the end fence. If rats wanted to go to pen 1 from pen 4 or either way, rats had to go across pen 2 and 3. There were 12 rats per room. The observations went on for 16 month until normal density population went up to 80.

Visual Overview of Method:
Crowding into the behavioral sink - The Neuron

Results: Density of the rats was not extreme. However, male rats began fighting when they reached certain maturity. Therefore, the strongest rat gained most of space with 8 to 12 female rats. Life for most of the rats in these end-pens was relatively normal and reproductive behavior was successful.
Aggression: Unlike the natural environment, the strongest rat was forced to fight continuously in order to maintain its position.
Submissiveness: There was groups of rats, that ignored and avoided battles for the dominance. These group of rats was the most healthy looking rats. They were fat and had lots of fur. However, they were ignored by other group of rats and not even sexually active. Another groups of rats engaged in extreme activities called probers. Most of them were dominant males. They were hypersexual and even became cannibalistic.
Sexual Deviance: Probers was sexual active and most of times, they did not wait for female to agree. Probers also turned cannibalistic. Another group of male rats was termed the pansexuals. They mated with lots of female rats indiscriminately.
Reproductive abnormalities: The female rats which was in the behavioral sink, gradually lost their ability of building a nest.

The mother rats also lost their maternal ability to transport their young from one place to another when they were presence of danger.

Discussion & Related Research
The fact is that people do not discuss about this very often. Even Calhoun did not come up with a conclusion about this because the result itself explains everything. However, he did comment on one clear result: that the natural social and survival behaviors of the rats were severely altered by the stresses associated with living in a high-population density environment. Also he said after improving the methods and the interpretations it might catch up our understandings of similar issues facing human beings.

When experimenting human as everyone knows the researchers must be really causcious about that. There was a reinterpretation in New York City analysing what Colhoun did. They analyzed every single thing about the rats. However, they couldn't find any significance between aggressive, pycological, and so on. Experimenters are still trying to relate this experiment to humans today.

Recent Applications
An article by Torrey and Yolken (1998) Incorporated Calhoun's study in exmaining the association between growing up in crowded condiions and the development of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Many studies have found that people who are raised in high-density urban environment are at the increased risk for these psychological disoders later in life.

Other related terms & concepts
Social Loafing

External Websites
Sociatin Today

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