The young of many species come to treat the first large, moving, noisy object they see as if it were a parent. In most cases this object is in fact a parent, but the process of im printing, as it is called, may produce such attachments to other species and even inanimate objects.
Various lines of evidence indicate that an essential component of imprinted reactions is motivational. The hatch-lings of precocial birds, if imprinted on any object, stay near that object and will climb over obstacles to get near it; further, they make distress calls in its absence. The process of learning involved in imprinting bears a strong resemblance to classical conditioning and may be the same thing.
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