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sign stimulusSignalreiz (ger.)

  • The component or characteristic of an external stimulus which is effective in initiating a particular innate behavioural response in an animal perceiving it, regardless of the presence or absence of the remainder of the stimulus. (OED 2012)

    ausgelöst durch Signalreize, welche auf centripetalen Bahnen […] dem Centrum […] zugeleitet werden

    Wundt, W. (1873/80). Grundzüge der physiologischen Psychologie, vol. 1: 354; cf. 355; Fechner, G.T. (1882). Revision der Hauptpuncte der Psychophysik: 265.


    The principle of representative stimuli, or sign stimuli as we may call them for short, is illustrated not only in the flight reactions of animals […] but even more clearly in […] food-finding behaviour.

    Russell, E.S. (1934). The Behaviour of Animals. An Introduction to Its study: 33.


    The fish-leech Piscicola responds to any source of water-vibration, not too far away, by directing its anterior end towards it. This may lead to its fixing itself on a fish, and water-vibration might accordingly be called a sign-stimulus, “meaning” the approach of a possible host.

    Russell, E.S. (1936). Playing with a dog. The Quarterly Review of Biology 11, 1-15: 10.


    not the red as such is a sign stimulus, but a red part of the body in a definite spatial relation to the body as a whole.

    Tinbergen, N. (1948). Social releasers and the experimental method required for their study. Wilson Bulletin 60, 6-52: 34.


    The first concept we shall examine is the sign stimulus or releaser, that portion of the total stimulus configuration which acts as the effective cue in releasing a specific behavior pattern.

    Alcock, J. (1975). Animal Behavior: 153.