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In this paper the author introduced a new graphical method for the …

Biology Articles » Zoology » Ethology » Music notation: a new method for visualizing social interaction in animals and humans » Methods

- Music notation: a new method for visualizing social interaction in animals and humans

Experimental animals and data collection

A detailed description of the experimental methods can be found in Chase [16]. Briefly, 14 groups of four 3-year old white Leghorn hens each were assembled from a pool of 21 hens using a balanced, incomplete block design [17]. This design gave a procedure for assembling smaller groups from a larger pool such that no two individuals met more than once, all individuals were in the same number of groups, and all individuals in the experiment took part in the same number of groups.

Two observers taking alternate 1.5 hour shifts and working from behind a blind recorded the behavior of the chickens for six hours a day for two successive days for a total of 12 hours. The hens were tested in a 152 × 102 × 81 cm. cage with food and water available ad libitum. When the hens were not being observed, they were separated by opaque partitions. The observers recorded all aggressive interactions among the hens involving physical contact. In 168 hours of total observation for the 14 groups of four, they recorded 7402 acts for an average of 44.1 acts per hour or 528.7 acts per group.

This research followed internationally recognized guidelines. The research protocol was examined and approved by the Chief Veterinarian and Director of the Division of Laboratory Animal Resources at Stony Brook University according to the standard university policy at that time (1979).

Algorithm for the graphical display of data

The present program for displaying the aggressive interactions among the hens is written in Visual Basic, and it can plot interactions in groups of two to four individuals. The program accepts data from EXCEL files with column one of each line indicating the time at which an interaction occurred and column two indicating the particular interaction that took place at that time (see Table 1). The program requires, as input, the individual identifications of the animals and their ranks within the resulting hierarchy. The program supplies a color chart so that a researcher can pick colors clearly distinguishing the lines and arrows representing each individual as well as the background color for a graph (see above). The program writes the graphical output as an HTML file making for ease of sharing files with other researchers, if desired, and to increase the portability of the files. A new software package for visualizing a wide variety of different types of interaction in humans and animals is in preparation. (The present program is available from the author upon request.)

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