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Socially-mediated arousal and contagion within domestic chick broods

Edgar, J L; Nicol, C J


J L Edgar

C J Nicol


Emotional contagion – an underpinning valenced feature of empathy – is made up of simpler, potentially dissociable social processes which can include socially-mediated arousal and behavioural/physiological contagion. Previous studies of emotional contagion have often conflated these processes rather than examining their independent contribution to empathic response. We measured socially-mediated arousal and contagion in 9-week old domestic chicks (n = 19 broods), who were unrelated but raised together from hatching. Pairs of observer chicks were exposed to two conditions in a counterbalanced order: air puff to conspecifics (AP) (during which an air puff was applied to three conspecifics at 30 s intervals) and control with noise of air puff (C) (during which the air puff was directed away from the apparatus at 30 s intervals). Behaviour and surface eye temperature of subjects and observers were measured throughout a 10-min pre-treatment and 10-min treatment period. Subjects and observers responded to AP with increased freezing, and reduced preening and ground pecking. Subjects and observers also showed reduced surface eye temperature - indicative of stress-induced hyperthermia. Subject-Observer behaviour was highly correlated within broods during both C and AP conditions, but with higher overall synchrony during AP. We demonstrate the co-occurrence of socially-mediated behavioural and physiological arousal and contagion; component features of emotional contagion.


Edgar, J. L., & Nicol, C. J. (2018). Socially-mediated arousal and contagion within domestic chick broods.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 3, 2018
Publication Date Jul 12, 2018
Deposit Date Jul 28, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jul 30, 2018
Journal Scientific Reports (Nature)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 8
Pages 10509
Public URL


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