Studies of behavior, endocrinology and physiology have described experiments in which animals housed in groups or in isolation were normally tested individually. The isolation of the animal from its group for testing is perhaps the most common situation used today in experimental procedures, i.e., there is no consideration of the acute stress which occurs when the animal is submitted to a situation different from that it is normally accustomed to, i.e., group living. In the present study, we used 90 male 120-day-old rats (Rattus norvegicus) divided into 5 groups of 18 animals, which were housed 3 per cage, in a total of 6 cages. The animals were tested individually or with their groups for exploratory behavior. Hormones were determined by radioimmunoassay using specific kits. The results showed statistically significant differences between testing conditions in terms of behavior and of adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH: from 116.8 ± 15.27 to 88.77 ± 18.74 when in group and to 159.6 ± 11.53 pg/ml when isolated), corticosterone (from 561.01 ± 77.04 to 1036.47 ± 79.81 when in group and to 784.71 ± 55.88 ng/ml when isolated), luteinizing hormone (from 0.84 ± 0.09 to 0.58 ± 0.05 when in group and to 0.52 ± 0.06 ng/ml when isolated) and prolactin (from 5.18 ± 0.33 to 9.37 ± 0.96 when in group and to 10.18 ± 1.23 ng/ml when isolated) secretion, but not in terms of follicle-stimulating hormone or testosterone secretion. The most important feature observed was that in each cage there was one animal with higher ACTH levels than the other two; furthermore, the exploratory behavior of this animal was different, indicating the occurrence of almost constant higher vigilance in this animal (latency to leave the den in group: 99.17 ± 34.95 and isolated: 675.3 ± 145.3 s). The data indicate that in each group there is an animal in a peculiar situation and its behavior can be detected by ACTH determination in addition to behavioral performance.