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Open Access Publications from the University of California


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 33, 2020

Research Article

The View of Russian Students on Whether Psychology is a Science

The Psychology as Science Scale (Friedrich, 1996) was administered to 525 psychology students from nine Russian universities to assess their beliefs about the nature of the discipline. About half of students (49.6%) generally agreed that psychology may be called a scientific discipline. Specifically, 71. 5% of the students agreed that psychology is a natural science, similar to biology, chemistry, and physics, 39. 9% of students agreed that psychological research is important and training in psychological methodology is necessary, and 43.1% of students agreed that human behavior is highly predictable. Students who took three methodology courses shared significantly stronger beliefs in the need for psychological research and the importance of training in methodology compared to students who did not take any methodology courses. Furthermore, students with a specialist degree had significantly stronger beliefs that psychology is a science compared to students who have just finished school. In terms of the effect of students’ career aspirations, students who wanted to be academic psychologists and clinicians had significantly stronger beliefs that psychology is a science compared to students who did not have clarity about their future careers. Regardless of the study limitations, these findings have potential implications for Russian psychology instructors.

Personality and Affiliation in a Cooperative Task for Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) Dyads

Social species can depend on each other for survival, helping in rearing of young, predator defense, and foraging. Personality dynamics between individuals may influence cooperative behaviors. Bottlenose dolphins ( Tursiops truncatus ) live in social communities and cooperate with other conspecifics to achieve goals both in the wild and in human care. We investigated the role that personality plays in the willingness of dolphins to work together. We tested five bottlenose dolphin pairs at the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences, Honduras, with an apparatus previously used to experimentally test dolphin cooperation. Personality profiles of each dolphin were created using surveys completed by the caretakers, in particular noting two different categories of interactions: dolphin to dolphin and dolphin to world. We hypothesized that dyadic success in the cooperative task would differ based on specific personality traits of individuals. We also hypothesized that the most successful dyads would show similar types of conspecific sociality and different means of interacting with objects. Although none of the dolphin pairs cooperated to open the apparatus, individual personalities were analyzed in relation to the dolphins’ individual and mutual interactions with the apparatus as well as the pairs’ social behaviors. Playfulness, curiosity, and affiliation as well as agreeableness, and extraversion were positively related to affiliation with the apparatus and each other. These findings suggest that certain aspects of personality are indicative of affiliation or interaction by an individual dolphin. These results could guide future animal research on the relationship between personality, social interactions, and problem-solving.

Female and male Wistar rats (Rattus norvegicus) discriminate diets according to energetic quantity

The food choice of animals is influenced by several factors including the quantity and nutrients available. It is not known, however, whether faced with alternatives that present the same amount of food, with similar flavor and obtained with the same response cost, rats would discriminate between diets with different energetic quantities. The aim was to verify whether female and male Wistar rats ( Rattus norvegicus ) discriminate between three types of food that differ in their energetic content (whether or not they prefer one) and whether the flavor could affect the choice between two diets with equal energetic quantities. Twelve Wistar rats (six of each sex) underwent tests of choice between pairs of diets of different energetic values. After the tests, the animals had at their disposal, in the home cage, two diets with the same energetic content, which differed in flavor (one contained sucrose) - Flavor test. The consumption of each diet was measured for five consecutive days. All the subjects demonstrated a preference for the more energetic alternative, regardless of the combination of diets presented. In the Flavor test the animals did not show significant preference for any diet, i.e., the consumption of both the S and N diets were statistically equal for all subjects. It was concluded that the animals, regardless of sex, discriminated between the diets with different energetic values and that the flavor did not seem to be a determinant variable in the food choice.


Preliminary study of discrimination of human vocal commands in walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens)

Walruses seem to use various acoustic signals in social context. So, the auditory faculty is seems to be important for walruses. Can walruses understand another animals' vocal information using auditory sense? This study tested whether a male walrus could discriminate human vocal words and perform different actions corresponding to each one under various conditions. The subject, a male walrus ( Odobenus rosmarus ) named Pou, was set on the ground, and the experimenter spoke one of the ten words to the subject under the following conditions; (1) The experimenter stood close to the subject and spoke each vocal stimulus wearing a black cloak and goggles so that the experimenter's eye and body movements would not influence the subject's behavior, (2) A wooden board was placed between the experimenter and the subject so that the subject could not see the experimenter, (3) A wooden board was placed between the experimenter and the subject so that the subject could not to see the experimenter, and the experimenter uttered each vocal stimulus through an audio speaker. Under each condition, when the subject performed the correct action corresponding to the vocal stimulus, he was rewarded with a piece of fish. As a result, the subject responded correctly to almost all the human vocal stimuli in every condition, including when the speaker was not visible. This means that he was indeed responding to the vocal words and not the experimenter's cues. This study demonstrated that walruses can hear and identify human vocal words using their auditory sense and can form correspondence between vocal words and their meanings.

Do honey bees (Apis mellifera) form cognitive representations of unconditioned stimuli?

Previous research looking at expectancy in animals has used various experimental designs focusing on appetitive and avoidance behaviors. In this study, honey bees ( Apis mellifera ) were tested ina series of three proboscis extension response (PER) experiments to determine to what degree honey bees’ form a cognitive-representation of an unconditioned stimulus (US). Tthe first experiment, bees were presented with either a 2 sec. sucrose US or 2 sec. honey US appetitive reward and the proboscis-extension duration was measured under each scenario. The PER duration was longer for the honey US even though each US was presented for just 2 sec.   Honey bees in the second experiment were tested during extinction trials on a conditioned stimulus (CS) of cinnamon or lavender that was paired with either the sucrose US or honey US in the acquisition trials.  The proportion of bees showing the PER response to the CS was recorded for each extinction trial for each US scenario, as was the duration of the proboscis extension for each bee.  Neither measure differed between the honey US and sucrose US scenarios,  In experiment three, bees were presented with a cinnamon or lavender CS paired with either honey US or sucrose US in a set of acquisition trials, but here the US was not given until after the proboscis was retracted. The PER duration after the CS, and again subsequent after the US, were recorded. While the PER duration after the US was longer for honey, the PER duration after the CS did not differ between honey US and sucrose US.

Fish out of water: Insights from a case study of a highly social animal that failed the mirror self-recognition test

Mirror self-recognition (MSR) tests have been conducted with a variety of species with the aim of examining whether subject animals have the capacity for self-awareness. To date, the majority of animals that have convincingly passed are highly social mammals whose wild counterparts live in complex societies, though there is much debate concerning what constitutes passing and what passing means in terms of self-awareness. Amid recent reports that a fish (cleaner wrasse, Labroides dimidiatus ) passed, it is intriguing that a mammal as highly social, tolerant, attentive, and cooperative as the grey wolf ( Canis lupus ) reportedly failed the test. Given the many possible reasons for failure, we aimed to elucidate the wolves’ responses at various stages of the MSR test to pinpoint potential problem areas where species-appropriate modifications to the test may be needed. Thus, we evaluated 6 socialized, captive grey wolves as a case study of failed MSR in socially complex canids. At a minimum, wolves did not respond to their reflection as an unfamiliar conspecific. Unfortunately, the wolves rapidly lost interest in the mirror and were uninterested in the applied marks. We note limitations of the MSR test for this species, recommend changes for future MSR tests of wolves, discuss other emerging self-cognizance methods for socially complex canids, and highlight the need for a suite of ecologically relevant, potentially scalable self-cognizance methods. Our findings and recommendations may aid in understanding self-cognizance in other untested highly social, cooperatively-hunting, coursing, terrestrial carnivores such as African wild dogs ( Lycaon pictus ), spotted hyenas ( Crocuta crocuta ), and African lions ( Panthera leo ).

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Flavor aversion learning based on running: A review

Wheel running establishes aversion in rats to a flavored solution consumed shortly before the running. Many studies have shown that this is a case of Pavlovian conditioning, in which the flavor and running respectively act as the conditioned stimulus (CS) and the unconditioned stimulus (US). The present article introduces some procedural variables of this running-based flavor aversion learning (FAL), including subjects, CS agents, US agents, and drive operations. This article also summarize various behavioral features of Pavlovian conditioning demonstrated in running-based FAL including the law of contiguity despite long-delay learning, extinction and spontaneous recovery, CS-preexposure effect, remote and proximal US-preexposure effects, degraded contingency effect, inhibitory learning by backward conditioning, stimulus overshadowing, associative blocking, and higher-order contextual control. Also reviewed are several hypotheses proposed for the underlying psychophysiological causes of running-based FAL (activation of mesolimbic dopamine system, gastrointestinal discomfort, motion sickness, energy expenditure, general stress, and anticipatory contrast). At the end of the article, we visit the question of most general interest about running-based FAL: why pleasurable activity of voluntary running yields aversive learning in rats.

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SI: Teaching Comparative Psychology

The teaching of comparative psychology: Exercises, experiences, and philosophy: A introduction to the special issue

This special issue of the International Journal of Comparative Psychology is devoted to the teaching of comparative psychology. The 12 papers in this issue represent a wide range of activities and collectively provide the teacher of comparative psychology with over 50 inquiry-based activities. These activities include a variety of animal demonstrations using both vertebrates and invertebrates and those related to teaching the history of comparative psychology. To help increase interest in comparative psychology within a psychology department, there is a paper describing how aspects of clinical psychology can be incorporated into a course on comparative psychology.  Teachers of comparative psychology will also find a paper on how the oriental art of origami can help students understand aspects of evolution. For teachers of comparative psychology that wish to incorporate behavioral technology into their classrooms, there are papers that describe how to construct low-cost animal robots and to incorporate 3D printers, respectively. The issue closes with a paper on how to teach behavioral observation techniques.

Musings about the importance of Comparative Psychology: Reflections from undergraduate students

The sub-field of comparative psychology has ebbed and flowed since the establishment of the field of psychology. Today, comparative psychology is taught rarely as an elective, much less as a required course within psychology departments around the United States. Based on responses on a beginning of semester reflection assignment about the field of psychology, when first or second year undergraduate students are asked about their knowledge of psychology and the various fields within, most have never heard of comparative psychology. Those that have heard of comparative psychology from a high school course, the students rarely mention it freely. The purpose of this essay is to share the reflections of students who have completed an upper division elective comparative psychology course at a primarily undergraduate, Hispanic-serving institution. In this course, the students were asked to reflect on what they know about comparative psychology at the beginning of the course and to return to those early reflections at the end of the course. One major finding is that the majority of the students state that this course should be a required course or a capstone for psychology as it integrates all of their required coursework together into a common experience. This synthesis enabled the students to see the importance of comparative analysis and the role understanding animals plays in understanding humans. Comparative psychology should not simply be a historical facet of the field of psychology, but should continue to play a critical role in shaping the experiences of students of psychology. Whether it is simply to make students of psychology aware of the role animal research has in understanding almost all aspects of psychology (clinical, learning, health, development, personality, social, biopsychology, neuroscience, behavioral economics, cognition) or to highlight the need that investigating the same question in different subjects is valuable, comparative psychology has a vital role in our field today.

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Considerations for an Integrated Undergraduate Comparative and Clinical Psychology Course

It has been established that comparative psychology is in danger of becoming a footnote in the history of psychology. Six pieces of evidence to support this problem are few graduate psychology programs; little of no mention in introductory psychology textbooks or courses; insufficient number of undergraduate courses in comparative psychology; few teaching exercises; declining membership in Division 6 of APA; no recent textbooks in comparative psychology. Therefore, this article sought a viable solution to promote comparative psychology’s interconnections to different psychology areas. Specifically, a solution for combining comparative psychology into clinical fields by creating a course that combines comparative and clinical psychology was conceptualized. The rationales, history, barriers, benefits of creating a comparative and clinical psychology course were all examined to make a case for this solution. Concrete approaches to a course development covering domains such as cognitive, behavioral analysis, and scientific reasoning were presented. Also, the consideration of a ‘capstone course’ that is approached from the perspective of ‘challenge-based learning’ was recommended. This capstone course could offer students flexibility and promote problem-solving and innovative-think skills needed for careers. The rationales and recommendations covered in the article established that providing a course on comparative and clinical psychology can actually facilitate students to think differently about psychology and how exactly the different areas of psychology interconnect. In conclusion, it was determined that developing a course on the connectedness of comparative and clinical psychology is one way to help strengthen comparative psychology’s rightful place in the broad field of psychology.


From Flatworms to Humans: Demonstration of Learning Principles Using Activities Developed by the Laboratory of Comparative Psychology and Behavioral Biology – Additional Exercises

Since the mid-1990s, the Laboratory of Comparative Psychology and Behavioral Biology at Oklahoma State University has developed a number of exercises appropriate for classroom use to demonstrate principles of learning and other forms of behavior. These activities have primarily focused on the use of invertebrates such as planarians, houseflies, earthworms, and honey bees. We have also developed exercises using fish based on an inexpensive apparatus called the “Fish Stick.” Other exercises to be discussed are “Salivary Conditioning in Humans;” “Project “Petscope” which turns local pet stores into animal behavior research centers; “Prey Preferences in Snakes”; and “Correspondence in the Classroom” which helps students learn to write letters to scientists in the field of learning research. These various teaching activities are summarized, and the advantages and limitations are discussed. Additional material developed since 2011 is included. This material includes a low cost microcontroller, history of comparative psychology projects, and additional animal exercises.

Animal Farm: Using Common Domestic Animals to Teach Comparative Psychology

As money for animal facilities at colleges and universities has declined, so too has the accessibility of students to hands-on experiences with animals.  However, we know that laboratory experiences with animals provide students with better ideas of the challenges and joys of animal research.  Faculty can be creative about using local resources or even their own pets to teach simple experiments in comparative cognition.  This paper describes an animal lab utilizing locally available animals to test understanding of the human communicative gesture of a point.  Outcomes of the lab provide interesting discussion for students, and students enjoy the experiences of using live animals to learn about comparative psychology.

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History in ten minutes: Two activities for promoting learning about the history of comparative psychology

The history of psychology is fascinating, and replete with important content for students to learn. The scholars and events that highlight the history of comparative psychology is no less compelling. However, there are many challenges in teaching the field’s history in a way that is engaging, inclusive, and comprehensive. One strategy for addressing these issues is to develop and employ a library of student-generated electronic tutorials that allow the introduction of under-represented groups and under-discussed contributors. In the present paper, we report the effectiveness of this strategy compared to several other class activities. Learning-outcome and student-evaluation data indicate that information introduced exclusively in these “Ten Minute of History” e-tutorials and academic ancestry presentations is learned to degrees at least comparable to those topics and contributors discussed in traditional lectures and readings. Without contending that these instructional activities are either particularly novel or uniquely suited to this particular course, the data reported here are encouraging for instructors who are facing obstacles to active learning and student engagement in a stand-alone course on psychology’s history broadly, or comparative psychology more specifically.

Cost-Effective Laboratory Exercises to Teach Principles in the Comparative Analysis of Behavior

The principles of the comparative analysis of behavior are as relevant now as it was in the time of Charles Darwin, George Romanes, and C. Lloyd Morgan. This article presents class exercises using animal and human action figures to provide students with hands-on experience demonstrating the importance of such principles and issues as classification, identification of independent and dependent variables, systematic variation, differences between homologies and analogies, the value of making valid comparisons, the importance of ethics, and the role of environmental and subject variables in the interpretation of species differences. Students are presented with a prescribed sequence of action figures differing in, for example, gender, race, and species. Initially, a single figure is presented, and students asked to consider various questions. A second figure is added which they must compare to the first. A third figure is subsequently presented and so on until the end of the exercise. The figures we have used include men, women, children, rats, pigeons, elephants, and assorted invertebrates. Students report that the exercise is effective in helping them acquire skills in experimental design and issues related to conducting comparisons. They also report that the exercise is difficult because it tests their assumptions at each level of comparison.

Pattern and Process in Evolution: Unfolding Nature’s Origami

Pattern and process are central concepts to understanding the evolution of behavioral traits for comparative psychologists. Origami is an art form which involves application of pattern and process to produce a wide array of objects using paper. Because of origami’s parallels with evolution, both of morphology and behavior, it can serve as a concrete and accessible analogy for students of comparative psychology. Origami’s processes can be reversed by unfolding the paper, thereby revealing patterns common across designs. Likewise, by studying pattern and process in evolution, scientists unfold nature’s origami. Application to comparative psychology and pedagogy are discussed.

Animal Minds in the Media: Learning outcomes for a critical-analysis assignment for students of comparative psychology

Students of comparative cognition must learn to read and evaluate scholarly writings such as journal articles and textbooks, and to think critically about information they hear from talks and lectures from experts in the field. They also must develop a healthy skepticism for popular-media portrayals of the mental and behavioral competencies of animals, whether those appear in serious formats such as documentaries and non-refereed popular science magazines or blogs, or even in media portrayals of animals that are intended purely for entertainment. Across a ten-year period, students in either a senior psychology course or a freshman honors seminar completed multiple assignments each semester called “Animal Minds in the Media” requiring identification and evaluation of popular media portrayals of the cognitive capabilities of animals, viewed through the lens of the comparative-psychology literature. The assignment was designed to motivate students to cultivate scientific skepticism and develop a “comparative psychologist’s way of seeing the world” by identifying implications or assumptions of popular-media treatment of animals and by bringing scientific literature to bear on the question of whether animals can actually think in the way implied by the commercial, comic, film, meme, or other media example.

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Tardigrades as a Teaching Model of Learning

This paper describes how to use tardigrades to demonstrate habituation. This experiment is designed for students with any level of experience or training in conditioning live organisms. In this experiment, tardigrades are desensitized to repeated physical touch. Tardigrades are placed under a microscope and poked with a probe until the strength of their response decreases to the point where there is no reaction for 10 consecutive trials. Once the habituation criteria are reached, a new stimulus is presented as a dishabituation control to ensure the subject responds appropriately to the new stimuli. Dishabituation is essential to show that the original response is still present even when a different stimulus is used to evoke that response. This experiment is easy to perform, does not require a lot of time or tools, and the effects are easily observed. We have added discussion questions and future research ideas to aid instructors in the classroom.

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The Use of Robotic Animals to Increase Interest in Comparative Psychology

This project focuses on the use of robots to increase student interest in comparative psychology. Robots facilitate the development of critical thinking skills, problem solving ability, and apparatus design. Moreover, as behavioral apparatuses become more sophisticated, the use of robots can help increase the interactions between comparative psychologists and engineers. We provide details on how to construct a robotic squirrel. Our squirrel is a ground-based motion robot driven at variable speeds utilizing slip steering. It supports an on-board video system to record and monitor various behavioral patterns of small animals, primarily squirrels in this project, from a distance. It also includes an audio system, which can record and playback sounds to the animals, and a simple robot arm-like structure with two degree of freedom controlled by servos. An Android smart phone application was developed to control the motion and speed of the robot and other operational controls in the system, such as record, playback control, and movement of the robot arm. We suggest that robots can be used as a source for independent projects, be incorporated into a class lecture on behavioral apparatuses, and/or be designed as a class project.

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The use of 3D Printing in Comparative Research and Teaching

The past decade has witnessed remarkable advancements in 3D printing or more scientifically called as additive manufacturing. Surprisingly, few comparative psychologists have taken advantage of 3D printing in the design of apparatus. Our paper discusses the advantages of 3D printing, the type of 3D printers (printing technologies) we have found most useful for various applications, offers practical suggestions on how engineers and comparative psychologists can communicate with each other on apparatus design issues and discuss how apparatus design with 3D printing can increase student interest in the STEM field. We first document that comparative/experimental psychologists seldom use 3D printer technology and then offer recommendations on how to increase the use of such technology in the behavioral sciences.

Workshop Effectiveness on Content Knowledge of Behavioral Observation Techniques for an Applied Animal Behavior Context

Comparative psychology has a long history of investigating topics that promote comparisons across disciplines, constructs, and species. One critical component of comparative analyses is to select the best data collection technique. Unfortunately, these observational skills are not always taught to individuals who need them the most, animal care professionals. To demonstrate the applicability of appropriate data collection techniques to this applied discipline, we conducted a multi-day workshop that provided attendees training and practice with several data collection techniques that could be used to evaluate animal behavior in both spontaneous and enrichment-provided settings. The program included (1) a presentation on different data collection techniques and the types of questions each technique can address, (2) two 20-minute sessions of observation practice at two different facilities, (3) a final summary presentation of the data collected, and (4) pre- and post-surveys conducted immediately before and at the end of the workshop. Out of 177 survey respondents, almost a third reported using behavioral data collection to manage animal behavior prior to the workshop. More than 90% of the respondents had heard of behavioral ethograms and 68% of the respondents had used one previously. Many of the respondents reported familiarity with different observation techniques. Eighty-two individuals completed the majority of the survey with 81% expressing satisfaction with the initial workshop presentation. Respondents completing both surveys showed significant improvement in their knowledge of behavioral data collection techniques. Ultimately, the workshop introduced and clarified behavioral observation techniques and their applications in a variety of contexts. Respondents indicated that they could and would utilize knowledge gained from the workshop at their own facilities.

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Special Issue: Revisiting The Legacy of Stan Kuczaj

Laterality of Eye Use by Bottlenose (Tursiops truncatus) and Rough-toothed (Steno bredanensis) Dolphins While Viewing Predictable and Unpredictable Stimuli

Laterality of eye use has been increasingly studied in cetaceans. Research supports that many cetacean species keep prey on the right side while feeding and preferentially view unfamiliar objects with the right eye. In contrast, the left eye has been used more by calves while in close proximity to their mothers. Despite some discrepancies across and within species, laterality of eye use generally indicates functional specialization of brain hemispheres in cetaceans. The present study aimed to examine laterality of eye use in bottlenose dolphins ( Tursiops truncatus ) and rough-toothed dolphins ( Steno bredanensis ) under managed care. Subjects were video-recorded through an underwater window while viewing two different stimuli, one predictable and static and the other unpredictable and moving. Bottlenose dolphins displayed an overall right-eye preference, especially while viewing the unpredictable, moving stimulus. Rough-toothed dolphins did not display eye preference while viewing stimuli. No significant correlations between degree of laterality and behavioral interest in the stimuli were found. Only for bottlenose dolphins were the degree of laterality and curiosity ratings correlated. This study extends research on cetacean lateralization to a species not extensively examined and to stimuli that varied in movement and degree of predictability. Further research is needed to make conclusions regarding lateralization in cetaceans.

When is enrichment enriching? Effective enrichment and unintended consequences in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)

Bottlenose dolphins ( Tursiops truncatus ) are viewed as a highly intelligent species, capable of complex behaviors, requiring marine parks to maintain dynamic environmental enrichment procedures in order to ensure their optimal psychological and physiological well-being in human care. In this study, two experiments were conducted to determine the effects of different forms of enrichment on the behavior of bottlenose dolphins. In Experiment 1, the most successful enrichment included highly novel items, which resulted in avoidance, but also what is frequently considered positive behavioral changes including a reduction in circle swimming and an increase in social behavior. In Experiment 2, the use of choice resulted in negative unintended social consequences. These two experiments together demonstrate that the results of deploying enrichment may not be as clear-cut as previously presumed. In order to maintain positive benefits of enrichment, the results of this study suggest that unique forms of enrichment should be implemented on a variable schedule that is offered several times a year and consistently evaluated for effectiveness.

SI: ISCP bienniel meeting (2018)

Comparisons of Animal “Smarts” Using the First Four Stages of the Model of Hierarchical Complexity

The Model of Hierarchical Complexity is a behavioral model of development and evolution of the complexity of behavior. It is based on task analysis. Tasks are ordered in terms of their hierarchical complexity, which is an ordinal scale that measures difficulty. The hierarchical difficulty of tasks is categorized as the order of hierarchical complexity . Successful performance on a task is called the behavioral stage . This model can be applied to non-human animals, and humans. Using data from some of the simplest animals and also somewhat more complex ones, this analysis describes the four lowest behavioral stages and illustrate them using the behaviors of a range of simple organisms. For example, Stage 1 tasks, and performance on them, are addressed with automatic unconditioned responses. Behavior at this Stage includes sensing, tropisms, habituation and, other automatic behaviors. Single cell organisms operate at this Stage. Stage 2 tasks include these earlier behaviors, but also include respondent conditioning but not operant conditioning. Animals such as some simple invertebrates have shown respondent conditioning, but not operant conditioning. Stage 3 tasks coordinate three instances of these earlier tasks to make possible operant conditioning. These stage 3 performances are similar to those of some invertebrates and also insects. Stage 4 tasks organisms coordinate 2 or more circular sensory-motor task actions into a superordinate “concept”. This explanation of the early stages of the Model of Hierarchical Complexity may help future research in animal behavior, and comparative psychology.


Special Issue: Canine Research

Discrimination of person odor by owned domestic dogs

In the field of dog cognition research, many studies assume that their subjects have multimodal recognition of their owner: Experiments using the face or voice of the person have proliferated. An outstanding question is whether owned domestic dogs represent the people with whom they live via smell. Olfaction is a principle sensory modality for dogs, and there is evidence that it is integral to recognition of conspecifics. In the current study, we investigated whether owned dogs spontaneously (without training) distinguished their owner's odor from a stranger's odor. Using natural body odor captured on a t-shirt, we found that dogs habituated to a familiar odor and dishabituated to an unfamiliar odor. This finding begins to answer the question of how dogs recognize and represent humans, including their owners.

Assessment of Canine Temperament: Predictive or Prescriptive?

Canine temperament testing has historically been linked to the predictability of future behavior. A predictive model of canine temperament testing assumes that a dog’s behavior in one situation will likely be similar to its behavior in a variety of other situations. An alternative model is proposed for a canine temperament test that could identify areas in which a dog might fail to perform certain test items, but by using modern behavior analysis techniques, behaviors could be modified through a prescriptive approach. This article describes the AKC Temperament Test (ATT), which is the first prescriptive canine temperament test. The ATT is designed to provide pet dog owners with information about potential problem areas that can be modified through training.



Distinguishing personal belief from scientific knowledge for the betterment of killer whale welfare – a commentary

We contest publication of Marino et al. regarding captive killer whale ( Orcinus orca ) welfare because of misrepresentations of available data and the use of citations that do not support assertions. Marino et al. misrepresent stress response concepts and erroneously cite studies, which appear to support Marino et al.’s philosophical beliefs regarding the cetacean hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis. To be clear, these misrepresentations are not differences of scientific opinion, as the authors’ conclusions lack any scientific basis. More extensive review of Marino et al.’s citations reveal a dearth of empirical evidence to support their assertions. Further, Marino et al.’s approach to animal welfare is not consistent with conventional veterinary approaches to animal welfare, including their apparent opposition to use of preventative and therapeutic veterinary interventions. While Marino et al. argue that killer whales’ cognitive and spatial needs preclude management of this species under human care, misrepresentation of the citations used to support this opinion invalidates their arguments. Misleading interpretations of data relative to killer whales’ cognitive and emotional needs and specious and unsubstantiated comparisons with states experienced by humans with posttraumatic stress disorder and other conditions, represent a number of strategies used to misrepresent knowledge regarding killer whale welfare. These misrepresentations and fallacies are inconsistent with scientific ethical standards for credible, peer-reviewed journals (ICMJE, 2018), and are barriers to rigorous discourse and identification of strategies for optimizing killer whale welfare. Assertions in the paper amount to nothing more than a compilation of conclusory, philosophical statements. We would also like to mention that manuscripts such as Marino et al.’s do great damage to the fields of comparative psychology and to behavioral science as a whole.

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