I have long been interested in the factors driving exploration, curiosity and reaction to novel stimuli, and typically examine these issues in an experimental paradigm commonly known as novel object recognition (NOR) or novel object preference (NOP). In this paradigm, the animal is first allowed to explore a matching set of two identical objects (T1). At some point later (T2), the animal encounters one of the original objects and a novel object with which it has had no prior experience. Berlyne (1950) first demonstrated that animals will spend more time exploring the novel object than the original (i.e., familiar) one when given equal access to both, thus displaying a preference for novel stimulation. If a delay is added between T1 and T2, NOR can also become a useful measure of retention across time (e.g., Ennaceur & Delacour, 1988; Anderson, Karash, Ashton, & Riccio, 2003; for review see Anderson, 2006ab). 

My studies have employed NOR to examine age differences in memory and reaction to novelty (Andeson et al., 2004), as well as the effects of various reminder treatments on the alleviation of forgetting in adult (Anderson et al., 2003) and infant rats (Anderson, Karash, & Riccio, 2004). We have also examined the influence of various initial stimulus presentation techniques on familiarity and subsequent preference for novelty (Anderson, Jablonski, & Klimas, 2008), and continue to explore various factors that influence familiarity, curiosity, and reaction to novel stimuli. Recent projects in the Anderson lab, for example, have examined the effects of predatory stress (Anderson & Layton, 2012), pregnancy, and nicotine exposure on such behaviors. We have also examined the potential therapeutic value of novelty exposure, and have recently demonstrated the ability of novelty exposure to weaken conditioned fear (Anderson, Burpee, Wall, & McGraw, 2013). Current research in the Anderson lab is aimed at investigating novel object recognition and preference in species beyond the traditional rodent models.

Curiosity and basic exploratory responses are key components to the behavioral repertoires of the most animal species, and thus a thorough and complete understanding of these issues is vital. Simply put, I am curious about curiosity. The essential role it plays in the everyday lives of both humans and non-human animals is undeniable.      

Novel Object Recognition Procedures:

Step 1: Training Context Habituation

Step 2: Initial Object Familiarization (Training)

Step 3: Novel Object Recognition (Testing)

Sample NOR Videos clips can be found here.



Anderson, M. J.  (2006a).  Novel object recognition: Assessing memory through exploratory responses.  In M. J. Anderson (Ed.),  Tasks and Techniques: A Sampling of Methodologies for the Investigation of Animal Learning, Behavior, and Cognition.  (pp. 39-48).  Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Anderson, M. J.  (2006b).  Object Exploration: A non-aversive measure of object recognition, spatial memory, and context familiarity.  In S. N. Hogan (Ed.), New Developments in Learning Research. (pp. 35-47).  Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Anderson, M. J., Barnes, G. W., Briggs, J. F., Ashton, K. M., Moody, E. W., Joynes, R. L., & Riccio, D. C.  (2004).  The effects of ontogeny on the performance of rats in a novel object recognition task.  Psychological Reports, 94, 437-443.

Anderson, M.J., Burpee, T.E., Wall, M.J., & McGraw, J. J. (2013).  Exposure to Novelty Weakens Conditioned Fear in Long-Evans Rats. Psicológica, 34, 59-78.

Anderson, M. J., Jablonski, S. A., & Klimas, D. B.  (2008). Spaced initial stimulus familiarization enhances novelty preference in Long-Evans rats.  Behavioural Processes, 78, 481-486.

Anderson, M. J., Karash, D. L., Ashton, K. M., & Riccio, D. C.  (2003).  The effects of a target-stimulus reminder on performance in a novel object recognition task.  Learning and Motivation, 34, 341-353.

Anderson, M. J., Karash, D. L., & Riccio, D. C.  (2004).  The alleviation of ontogenetic forgetting in a novel object recognition task.  Journal of Behavioral and Neuroscience Research, 2, 1-5.

Anderson, M. J. & Layton, W. B.  (2012).  Predatory odor disrupts social novelty preference in Long-Evans rats. Psicológica, 33, 293-303.

Berlyne, D. E.  (1950).  Novelty and curiosity as determinants of exploratory behaviour.  British Journal of Psychology, 41, 68-80.

Ennaceur, A., & Delacour, J.  (1988).  A new one-trial test for neurobiological studies of memory in rats. 1: Behavioral data. Behavioural Brain Research, 31, 47-59.  

“Animals manifestly enjoy excitement, and suffer from annul and may exhibit curiosity.” -Charles Darwin (Descent of Man)

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