Date of Thesis

Spring 2022


In male blue gourami fish (Trichogaster trichopterus), signaled presentation of a male rival produces an aggressive conditioned response that results in an increased likelihood of the male winning the contest (Hollis, 1984). I replicated this classic study in a species that also shows territorial aggression: the Madagascar hissing cockroach (MHC; Gromphadorhina portentosa). During training, four adult male MHCs were designated as “CS+” animals and received a light (NS) followed by visual access to a rival male (US). Simultaneously, another group of four adult male MHCs designated as “UNC” animals received the light (NS) and visual access to a rival male (US) at random intervals, such that the light was not predictive of the appearance of the male. During testing, each CS+ animal was paired with a UNC animal, the light was presented, and the animals were given direct physical access to each other. CS+ animals won all four of these test fights, indicating conditioned territorial aggression in MHCs. Follow-up experiments revealed that signaled presentation of a rival male may produce an aggressive conditioned response in male MHCs. These results suggest an important ecological role for classical conditioning in MHCs.


classical conditioning, insect cognition, entomology, territory defense, social rank, conditioned territorial aggression

Access Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Science


Animal Behavior

Minor, Emphasis, or Concentration


First Advisor

Regina Gazes