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The International Journal of Comparative Psychology is sponsored by the International Society for Comparative Psychology. It is a peer-reviewed open-access digital journal that publishes studies on the evolution and development of behavior in all animal species. It accepts research articles and reviews, letters and audiovisual submissions.

Volume 15, Issue 2, 2002

Research Article

Role of Comparative Psychology in the Development of Effective Environmental Enrichment Strategies to Improve Poultry Welfare

Environmental enrichment can improve poultry welfare and productivity by decreasing harmful behaviours, like fear or feather pecking. Having shown that chickens used an environment more when it was enriched, we then identified specific preferences in order to design more effective enrichment. First, we found that televised stimuli were attractive to chickens, that their regular presentation reduced fear, and that the images should incorporate movement, brightness, colour, and moderate complexity. Projecting them onto the walls might be a practicable strategy. Second, farmers reported that playing the radio reduced aggression, improved the birds’ health and increased productivity; this is also one of the easiest ways of enriching the farmers’ environment. Third, our findings that the presence of a familiar odourant reduced chicks’ fear of novel places, birds and food suggest that olfactory therapy could minimize certain behavioural problems. Finally, providing chickens with bunches of string promoted foraging and exploration, sustained lengthy interest, and reduced potentially injurious inter-bird pecking and feather damage in the laboratory and at a commercial farm. Clearly, extraneous stimulation is important to chickens. The provision of appropriate visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile enrichment is likely to improve their quality of life.

Assessing Animals’ Preferences: Concurrent Schedules of Reinforcement

Three methods of assessing animals’ preferences are outlined: free-access, two-choice (e.g., T maze), and concurrent-schedules. While all give indications of relative preference between the choices, freeaccess and discrete-trial procedures tend to give exclusive preference and so do not indicate the degree of preference. Concurrent schedules give at least ordinal measures of the degree of preference. Data from cows, hens, and brushtail possums are used to illustrate the use of concurrent schedules to assess food preferences. The use of multiple-concurrent schedules to assess preference between sounds, and of concurrent-chain schedules to assess preference between waiting with or without another hen present are illustrated by studies with hens. Concurrent schedules, while not replacing other methods, are useful in evaluating preferences.

Keeping Environmental Enrichment Enriching

The use of novel objects as environmental enrichment devices is a key aspect of many environmental enrichment programs, regardless of whether the animals being enriched are housed in aquaria, zoos, or laboratories. The effectiveness of novel objects as enrichment devices depends on a number of factors, many of which are based on findings from comparative psychology. For example, the literature on habituation predicts that an object that is always in an animal’s environment will be less interesting than a similar object that is available only on an intermittent basis. To test the hypothesis that type of exposure to objects affects the objects’ enriching qualities, we exposed sixteen animals from ten different species to novel objects in two different conditions. In the first condition, animals were exposed to a novel object for a total of 120 min, 60 min at a time on two separate occasions. Approximately three weeks later, the animals were once again given a total of 120 min to interact with the object that they had experienced in the first condition, but the amount of time the object was available per session was much more variable. The results demonstrate that variable presentations are more likely to maintain the enriching qualities of objects, consistent with the literature on habituation.

Use of Two-Trainer Interactive Modeling as a Potential Means to Engender Social Behavior in Children with Various Disabilities

Many behavior modification and intervention programs for children are based on procedures developed in operant laboratories using animal subjects, but few use modeling procedures in which one student observes interactions of two proficient trainers. We show how such procedures, which were successfully used to train Grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) to produce and comprehend elements of human language, can be adapted for use with children with autistic spectrum disorders and other disabilities to engender social skills and, in particular, empathetic interactions. Children were evaluated before entering the program and outcomes were recorded to determine improvement levels. No child reached totally normative (physical-age appropriate) levels, but all significantly improved their empathic social communication skills and use of contextually appropriate behavior. We conclude that a two-trainer modeling system can be a valuable intervention tool for children whose disabilities involve social and communicative skills.

A Behavior-Based Fractionation of Cognitive Competence with Clinical Applications: A Comparative Approach

We describe experimental techniques based on serial ordering tasks using touch screens, designed to assess memory and high level cognitive organization in human and nonhuman subjects. We demonstrate the applicability of these techniques to a wide range of cognitive competence and executive functioning, illustrating some promising new applications in areas of cognitive dysfunction in humans, specifically Fragile X syndrome and Autistic Spectrum Disorder in children, and Alzheimer’s disease and bipolar disorder in adults. We conclude that these techniques have implications both for work in areas of cognitive remediation, as well as in the promotion of animal models of human cognitive function and executive control.

Uncloaking the Magician: Contributions of Comparative Psychology to Understanding Animal Training

The training of animals is an ancient anthropogenic process; however, it was not until the birth of comparative psychology, as a science, that the mysterious ways of the animal trainer were formally explained. In this review I will discuss the contributions of comparative psychology both past and present in animal training. The discoveries of comparative psychologists have greatly enhanced the animal training process and resulted in new methods for training animals; for example, training animals using social models. Despite, comparative psychology being a quantitative science we have still to empirically evaluate the animal training process. I therefore suggest how we might further our understanding of animal training and hence animal learning processes through the collection of data and meta-analyses.

Training in the circus world (as well as outside it) is surrounded with secrets, mystic and magic. Trainers seem almost frightened that their secrets will out...

Kiley-Worthington, 1990, p. 140.

It Takes More Than Fish: The Psychology of Marine Mammal Training

The use of novel objects as environmental enrichment devices is a key aspect of many environmental enrichment programs, regardless of whether the animals being enriched are housed in aquaria, zoos, or laboratories. The effectiveness of novel objects as enrichment devices depends on a number of factors, many of which are based on findings from comparative psychology. For example, the literature on habituation predicts that an object that is always in an animal’s environment will be less interesting than a similar object that is available only on an intermittent basis. To test the hypothesis that type of exposure to objects affects the objects’ enriching qualities, we exposed sixteen animals from ten different species to novel objects in two different conditions. In the first condition, animals were exposed to a novel object for a total of 120 min, 60 min at a time on two separate occasions. Approximately three weeks later, the animals were once again given a total of 120 min to interact with the object that they had experienced in the first condition, but the amount of time the object was available per session was much more variable. The results demonstrate that variable presentations are more likely to maintain the enriching qualities of objects, consistent with the literature on habituation.

The Development of a Psychometric Scale for the Evaluation of the Emotional Predispositions of Pet Dogs

Many pet dogs exhibit problem behaviours which can be corrected through the judicious use of positive and negative reinforcers in training. However, animals often vary in their sensitivity and response to these. It is hypothesised that this variation may offer a biological basis for discriminating between animals that develop certain types of problems (eg fears and phobias) and their response to treatment. The development of a clinical tool that uses owner report to measure individual differences in positive and negative activation in pet dogs is described. The activation scales each measured a single homogeneous construct and effectively differentiated between individuals, demonstrating variation on two dimensions. Test-retest reliability was good and the study provided evidence of validity. Normative data were calculated and may be used in future research that could provide further evidence of validity and in investigations of the underlying structure of canine behaviour disorders. The final scales comprised of 21 items, and so can be administered with little difficulty.

Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) and the Solution of Practical Problems

Experiments on the use of honey bees (Apis mellifera) to solve practical problems are described. These problems include studies of alcoholism, influence of consumer products on Africanized honey bees, the effect of pesticides considered “harmless,” and the detection of adulterated hive products. The results of these experiments indicate that the study of invertebrate learning conducted within a comparative-psychological paradigm can provide much useful data to the solution of practical problems of significance to psychologists.

Two Programs Educating the Public in Animal Learning and Behavior

Two educational programs have been developed that teach basic principles of animal learning and behavior and how they can be used in day to day interactions with companion animals. The first program educates violators of animal control laws about animal learning and cat and dog behavior to help them resolve their problems with their animals and avoid future animal control violations. The second educates home service providers concerning basic principles of animal communication, dog behavior, and the causes of aggression to help them avoid dog attacks on the job.

Comparative Approach to Pilot Error and Effective Landing Flare Instructions

One of the most difficult tasks confronting pilots is the brief transition between descent attitude and contact with the runway surface. This transition is known as the landing flare and requires pilots to level off the aircraft at a safe altitude above ground. General aviation landing flares are crucial to smooth and safe landings since flaring too high or too low may lead to a hard landing and possible structural damage. Nevertheless, the maneuver is poorly understood and landing flare accident rates are relatively high. This paper considers avian perceptual and stimulus discrimination abilities in order to better understand and improve the flare maneuver. It concludes by suggesting that the focus and methodology of modern psychology may have hindered the development of effective flare instruction.