Skip to Content

Mom Always Liked You Best

Examining the Hypothesis of Parental Favoritism


Clyde Freeman Herreid
Department of Biological Sciences
University at Buffalo


This interrupted case study is based on a journal article on the parenting behavior of American coots. Working through the case, students develop hypotheses and design experiments to test their hypotheses as they are given pieces of the case in an interrupted, or progressive disclosure, case format. The case teaches students about the scientific method. As such, it would be useful in any course where one wishes to emphasize how scientists go about solving problems. The subject matter of the case makes it suitable for courses in biology, especially those focusing on evolution and ecology, and the case can be used with both science majors and non-science majors.


  • Help students develop a clear, rigorous, and structured approach to solving problems.
  • Give students practice in designing experiments.
  • Give students practice in making predictions and interpreting data.
  • Give students an explicit experience with the hypothetico-deductive method of reasoning, i.e., “the scientific method,” where a question is asked, a hypothesis suggested, predictions or deductions made in light of the hypothesis, tests accomplished, and the data evaluated as to whether it supports or rejects the hypothesis.


Coot; bird; plumage; parental favoritism; preferential feeding; animal behavior; experimental design

Topical Areas

Scientific method

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division



Type / Methods




Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Science (General)  |   Ecology  |   Evolutionary Biology  |   Zoology  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

Case teaching notes are password-protected and access to them is limited to paid subscribed instructors. To become a paid subscriber, begin the process by registering.

Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.