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imprinting im·print·ing (ĭm'prĭn'tĭng)
A learning process occurring early in the life of a social animal in which a specific behavior pattern is established through association with a parent or other role model.
A rapid learning process by which a newborn or very young animal establishes a behavior pattern of recognition and attraction towards other animals of its own kind, as well as to specific individuals of its species, such as its parents, or to a substitute for these. Ducklings, for example, will imprint upon and follow the first large moving object they observe. In nature, this is usually their mother, but they can be made to imprint upon other moving objects, such as a soccer ball.