Konrad Lorenz (1903-1989) was an Austrian zoologist and ethologist. An ethologist studies animal behavior patterns in their natural environment. Lorenz studied animals with a special focus on greylag geese. He discovered that baby geese (goslings) that were immediately exposed to humans (and not to mother geese) in the critical time period following their birth, acted thereafter as if the human was their mother and followed the person everywhere. Later, after this critical period, if the goslings had exposure to their mothers, they still remained attached to the human and preferentially followed the human and not the mother geese. The goslings forever afterward followed the human. Lorenz called this Imprinting. It was an irreversible learning that took place during a brief window of time early in life. Lorenz also found that goslings that imprinted on baby carriages later attempted to mate with baby carriages they saw in city parks. This suggested to Lorenz that imprinting was instinctive or innate. And, once the imprinting occurred, it could not be altered later in life. Lorenz received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1973. His findings have implications for the study of human emotional conditioning that result in the formation of human relationships.
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