Describe the tether experiment
September 4, 2010 5:54 AM   Subscribe

Can you describe the experiment in which an animal is tethered for a period of time, the tether is removed, and the animal still stays within the radius of the tether?
posted by markcmyers to Science & Nature (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like you just described it yourself. Are you trying to find a specific study or a named phenomenon along these lines?
posted by ixohoxi at 6:17 AM on September 4, 2010

Learned helplessness?
posted by carsonb at 6:26 AM on September 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

I've heard this of fishes that were moved to larger tanks.. in highschool, from a classmate. Not exactly scientific evidence...
posted by 3mendo at 8:10 AM on September 4, 2010

The story I've heard is that elephant trainers in India did that with young elephants, and then once they were adults, they would just have to put the anklet on them and the elephant would assume that it could not walk very far away, so it wouldn't even try. This was done with elephants that were being used as beasts of burden, as opposed to being trained for entertainment and such.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:25 AM on September 4, 2010

Fleas in flea circuses are trained not to jump too high by keeping them in a container with a lid.
posted by hot soup girl at 8:45 AM on September 4, 2010

Not exactly the same, but I've heard anecdotes that dog owners who use Invisible Fence or similar can't tell when the collar's batteries run out, because the dogs never cross the 'fence' anymore once they learn where it is.
posted by Gordafarin at 9:56 AM on September 4, 2010

Well, not science, but some years ago I recall reading a piece on the novelist Larry McMurtry (probably this one, from Texas Monthly in 1988, but I don't have on-line access to verify) that described an incident during the process of adapting his novel Lonesome Dove to the screen involving a group of vultures, a tree, multiple tethers, a loud gun shot, many, many takes, and a frustrating, humorous, and easily predictable result that illustrates the general concept you've brought up.
posted by 5Q7 at 10:28 AM on September 4, 2010

I've heard this anecdotally; young elephants are apparently chained with enormous chains, so they exhaust themselves trying to break them, and eventually learn that escape is impossible. This means that adult elephants can be restrained using only ropes- even though an elephant could easily break the rope, it won't try, as it learned long ago that the thing on its ankle is invincible.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:53 AM on September 4, 2010

FWIW, appears I was thinking of a scene from the movie Hud, adapted from another McMurtry novel:

Hud’s character unfolds in earnest when Homer learns his cattle have hoof-and-mouth disease and he must destroy the herd. Before the shattering diagnosis, however, they find a few dead cattle but don’t know what killed them. Homer asks Hud not to shoot the vultures picking at the carcasses.

"They keep the country clean," the old man says, and besides, it’s against law.

"Well, Hud says, "I always say that the law was meant to be interpreted in a lenient manner, and that’s what I try to do. Sometimes I lean to one side of it, and sometimes I lean to the other."

Seems that each time the human actors needed another take for this scene early on, the vultures flew far away in response to the character Hud's gun shot, requiring the crew to retrieve them again and again, which slowed down the filming considerably. After a time, someone decided to tie the birds to a tree so they could fly just far enough to get beyond camera range. But after a few more takes with this set up, the birds soon began ignoring the gun shot all together, and nothing the crew tried could get them to move, which eventually required getting a new batch of vultures to complete the scene.
posted by 5Q7 at 1:05 PM on September 4, 2010

With horses, it's called ground tying.
posted by brujita at 12:07 AM on September 5, 2010

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