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  • Writer's pictureAdil Malia

Fixed Action Patterns - 'Cheep - Cheep '!!

Unlike baby songbirds and raptors, whose parents are absent for long periods after they are born gathering food for their young ...'poults'  of groundnesting birds like  turkeys, stay close to their mothers for months after they are born. The poults, panic if they become separated from their mother for even a short period of time. The Turkey mothers are very good, loving, caring & protective.  

However, all their mothering care is triggered by one stimulus (says Robert Cialdini) ... the 

'cheep cheep' sound of the poults. The other identifying features like its appearance, smell or touch do not really matter in the mother's nurturing process. If the chicks go cheep- cheep, the mother Turkey pours out care in abundance. If it does not, the mother just ignores.

In a unique scientific experiment , a stuffed pole-cat ( a predatory enemy of the Turkey) with play wheels was string tied with a string to the mother Turkey. The stuffed toy thus kept following the mother Turkey wherever it went. 

The enemy ( even if it was stuffed and not real) was fiercely attacked by the Turkey. However, when a tape recorder with 'cheep-cheep' sounds of the baby turkeys being played out at regular intervals was placed in the same stuffed pole-cat, the mother not only accepted the stuffed enemy but strangely, also gathered it underneath her.


Such blindly mechanical patterns of action are noticed not only in Turkeys but also in a wide variety of species. Not necessarily in the same way but in many of its variations. One 'Click' and the entire program embedded in our system is triggered and activated. These are called 'Fixed-Action Patterns'. 

The owner's - 'Go Tommy Go' signal is a good enough trigger for the trained dog to pull you down on your knees !!!

But don't we all as human beings also respond to different situations on the basis of  similar 'Fixed Action Patterns' ? Rightly or wrongly ?

 Two very friendly colleagues (a male and a female) regularly seen visiting the neighborhood  'Starbucks' for coffee regularly at the same time will by and large experience similar 'FAPs' of response from their colleagues. Most gossips find their roots in such 'FAP' triggers. This is only one illustration, each one of us can list many more such FAPs experienced by them at their work places. 

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