Study suggests virgin male mice prefer watching violence to watching sex

Credit: martha sexton/public domain

(—A trio of researchers working in Japan has found via experiments they conducted, that male virgin mice prefer to watch videos of other mice fighting with one another, than videos of mice having sex. In their paper published in the journal Animal Cognition, Shigeru Watanabe with Keio University, Kazutaka Shinozuka with the RIKEN Brain Science Institute and Takefumi Kikusui with Azabu University, all in Japan, report on behavioral experiments they conducted with house mice and what they believe their findings suggest about mouse behavior.

To better understand why humans behave the way they do, scientists sometimes study the behavior of other animals—in this case, the researchers set up experiments with common house to learn more about what drives them to make behavioral decisions.

The researchers conducted two main types of experiments. In the first, test mice were shown a loop of video on an iPhone that randomly depicted mice sniffing, or having with one another. Those mice were then transferred to a cage that had side pockets that mice could enter and stay for as long as they liked—the attraction was video playing on an iPod. Two such trials were conducted, one where mice could watch either sniffing or sex, the other where they could watch either fighting or sex. The team found that on average, the mice spent 41 percent of their time watching sex compared to 34 percent sniffing in the first exercise and 40 percent of their time watching fighting versus 35 percent watching sex in the second—this indicates, the team claims, that the mice prefer to watch fighting most, then sex, then sniffing. Subsequent trials involved showing different clips of the same types of activities and offering rewards to the mice when they learned to recognize the difference between behaviors, to prove that they were responding to specific activities and not just the images in one video.

In the second series of exercises, the researchers once again allowed the mice to choose the same type of videos, but this time the mice got an injection of morphine as they entered their miniature theater. Not surprisingly, the found that the mice tended to come back to that theater no matter what was playing.

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More information: Shigeru Watanabe et al. Preference for and discrimination of videos of conspecific social behavior in mice, Animal Cognition (2016). DOI: 10.1007/s10071-016-0953-x

We showed mice videos of three conspecific social behaviors, namely sniffing, copulation, and fighting, in pairwise combinations using iPods and evaluated preference as determined by time spent in front of each iPod. Mice preferred the copulation video to the sniffing video, the fighting video to the sniffing video, and the fighting video to the copulation video. In Experiment 1a, we used a single video clip for each social behavior but used multiple video clips for each social behavior in Experiment 2a. Next, we trained mice to discriminate between the fighting and copulation videos using a conditioned-place-preference-like task in which one video was associated with injection of morphine and the other was not. For half of the subjects, the fighting video was associated with morphine injection, and for the other half, the copulation video was associated with morphine injection. After conditioning, the mice stayed longer in the compartment with the morphine-associated video. When tested with still images obtained from the videos, mice stayed longer in the compartment with still images from the video associated with morphine injection (Experiment 1b). When we trained mice with multiple exemplars, the subjects showed generalization of preference for new video clips never shown during conditioning (Experiment 2b). These results demonstrate that mice had a preference among videos of particular behavior patterns and that they could discriminate these videos as visual category. Although relationship between real social behaviors and their videos is still open question, the preference tests suggest that the mice perceived the videos as meaningful stimuli.

Journal information: Animal Cognition

© 2016

Citation: Study suggests virgin male mice prefer watching violence to watching sex (2016, February 15) retrieved 18 October 2019 from
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Feb 15, 2016
STUDY SUGGESTS VIRGIN MALE MICE PREFER WATCHING MALES FIGHTING THAN WATCHING SEX which lead directly to those cagey female Bonobos that continually drag males into sex thereby short circuiting the aggression. Any wonder why our society sells sex in any form?

Feb 15, 2016
And the value of this research is exactly what?! Recent studies report that the Japanese themselves are more interested in violence than sex. Any wonder? What a waste of research dollars.

Feb 15, 2016
And, in other news, mice porn is boring.

Feb 16, 2016
gonna file this one under things I never knew I didn't need to know.

Feb 16, 2016
Useless? The study spot on explains antigoracle's trolling.

Feb 18, 2016
There was no mention of the word "virgin" in the abstract or even the article.
That aside, a lot is left to question about this study, or rather the conclusions. How would they react to different species doing the same thing or even just blobs of color emulating similar patterns of movement?
Is it maybe just some 'preprogrammed' reaction to observe a situation for longer instead of mouse voyeurism.
If it's conscious then how would the poor treatment and isolation affect mouse psyche? Does it create mental issues like in humans?
A lot is left unanswered.

Feb 18, 2016
There was no mention of the word "virgin" in the abstract or even the article
from the very first sentence in the article
(—A trio of researchers working in Japan has found via experiments they conducted, that male virgin mice prefer to watch videos of other mice fighting with one another, than videos of mice having sex
you can use CTRL+F to validate that

as for the abstract: it isn't mentioned but the study is also pay-walled and it may well be a condition in the study that we can't see in the abstract

you can ask your questions direct to the author via e-mail: Shigeru Watanabe at the following-

most are willing to discuss details to laymen and you might even get a copy of the study if you ask nicely (I've always had great luck to date- you can too)

Feb 19, 2016
Had a "(might have missed the one in article due to chronic skipping)" but hit the character limit so closed my eyes, deleted it, hoped for the best and deleted some other parts too.

Understandably they can't cover everything, the writer of the article or the researchers, but knowing how articles and studies like this get paraphrased for thousand and 1 different devious agendas it makes me wonder why don't they put in a bit more effort into reducing the chance of it happening.
On the other hand it might still happen so both parties could have just concluded, "why bother?".

Feb 19, 2016 makes me wonder why don't they put in a bit more effort into reducing the chance of it happening
I completely understand your argument: my wife is an author and a grammar nazi, so i am corrected often (of course, i am also one to intentionally make mistakes to irritate her too... it adds spice, LOL)

Editors and people who are supposed to check these things cost money, so some of this is the fault of the original source: lack of fact checking, hyperbole (or bad analogies), rushing

Science-X/PO is a clearing house so they will not put out a lot of $$ for editorial staff: most of the articles are submissions by BOT, so taken as is (or poorly translated as is, etc)
they likely have less than 2 dozen employee's, mostly sales, phones, secretarial

so it is a complex situation (but also one of money)
why bother indeed when grammar and spelling (etc) is typically overlooked in society anyway?
I'm surprised it isn't in text-shorthand

Feb 20, 2016
I think the need for violence is the sure sign of being a rat.

Feb 21, 2016
A study which reveals more about the experimenters and their world view than anything else.

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