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Psychol Rep. 2005 Oct;97(2):631-8.

Exploratory behavior as a function of environmental novelty and complexity in male and female rats.

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  • 1Warsaw School of Social Psychology, Institute of Psychology, Polish Academy of Sciences.


Laboratory rats show a positive response to low- and nonstressful novel events. The novel event may involve a number of aspects of the stimulus field. It is usually associated with a change in amount of environmental complexity. Most studies concerning novelty-related behavior involve the introduction of novel objects or the rearrangement of familiar objects. The present purpose was to measure exploratory behavior in response to environments of increased and decreased complexity. Both directions of environmental change are conditions of novelty. A two-way manipulation of increasing and decreasing the complexity of the environment was used. Rats of both sexes showed increased exploration to exposure to novelty, no matter which manipulation was applied; however, female and male rats behaved differently to the two types of novelty. Males responded more to novelty from the introduction of an unfamiliar object. The results indicate novel stimulation, whether of increasing or decreasing complexity, has reward properties. Perhaps the male-specific behavior directed toward unfamiliar objects may serve an adaptive function.

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