We suggest that socio-spatial behavior, which is an interaction between social and spatial cognition, can be viewed as a set of excursions that originate and end in close proximity to another individual(s). We present an extension of earlier studies that perceived spatial behavior in individual animals as a series of excursions originating from a particular location. We measured here the momentary distance between two individuals (social distance) to differentiate among eight possible types of social excursion originating in a state of proximity between excursion-participants. The defined excursion types are based on whether or not the excursion initiator also concludes the excursion, whether or not the excursion starts and ends at the same location, and the dynamics of the distance between excursion participants. We validated this approach to socio-spatial behavior as a set of excursions using it to analyze the behavior of the two sexes in rodents, of normal vs. stereotyped rats, as well as of different rodent species. Each of these groups displays a prevalent excursion type that reflects a distinct social dynamics. Our approach offers a useful and comprehensive tool for studying socio-spatial cognition, and can also be applied to distinguish among different social situations in rodents and other animals.
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We are grateful to Pazit Zadicario and Zohar Hagbi for data acquisition and consultation, to Yair Wexler for statistical advisory, to Drs. Inon Scharf, Sergio Pellis, and Henry Szechtman for comments, and to Naomi Paz for language editing. Special thanks to the Betzet who did not contribute much to this study.
This study did not receive any external funding.
Conflict of interests
Both authors declare no conflict of interests.
The present study is based on the data from two studies that were carried out in accordance with the relevant guidelines and regulations of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) of Tel-Aviv University, Permit Numbers 04-17-040 (Dorfman et al. 2019) and 04-18-003 (Hagbi 2018). No animal was sacrificed for the purpose of this study.
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Supplementary file1 The clip describes two excursions, the first without mid-section and the second with mid-section (see also Figure 3). In both clips, the left inset describes the dynamics of the social distance function during the excursion. The abscissa is the time (note the clock at the top) and the ordinate is the distance (in cm.). The green asterisk (*) indicates the end of the outbound section and the beginning of the mid-section, and the red asterisk (*) indicates the end of the mid-section and the beginning of the inbound section. The right inset describes the actual trajectory, synchronized with the social distance function. (AVI 27151 kb)
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Dorfman, A., Eilam, D. Social spatial cognition: social distance dynamics as an identifier of social interactions. Anim Cogn 24, 407–418 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-020-01441-9
- Spatial cognition
- Social cognition
- Social distance
- Social interactions