Mechanisms underlying cognitive bias in nonhuman primates

Recent research in nonhuman animals highlights the exciting possibility that performance on cognitive bias tasks might indirectly measure an individual’s subjective, affective state. Subjects first learn to perform a conditional discrimination task with two differentially reinforced responses, and then intermediate, unreinforced stimuli are introduced. Differences in affective state have been related to changes in the […]

Abnormal behavior and the self-regulation of motivational state

Although most abnormal behaviors, including all stereotypies, indicate poor welfare, some that occur in rare situations are functional and do not indicate a negative situation. There is a wide range of abnormal behaviors that occur in conditions where the animal’s needs are not met, and these can be valuable welfare indicators, but these should never […]

Can farm animal welfare be understood without taking into account the issues of emotion and cognition?

Although the concept of welfare makes reference to feelings of individual animals, the exact nature of these feelings and their relationship to emotions and cognitive abilities of the animals under consideration are never detailed. Based on the concepts of stress and coping, an extensive list of indicators of physical health, production, behavior, and physiology has […]

From an animal’s point of view: Motivation, fitness, and animal welfare

Cognitive bias as an indicator of animal emotion and welfare: Emerging evidence and underlying mechanisms☆

Accurate assessment of animal emotion (affect) is an important goal in animal welfare science, and in areas such as neuroscience and psychopharmacology. Direct measures of conscious emotion are not available, so assessment of animal affect has relied onmeasures of the behavioural and physiological components of affective states. These are important indicators but have some limitations […]

Using aversion learning techniques to assess the mental state, suffering, and welfare of farm animals

The extent that handling farm animals causes them to suffer is a central concern when assessing their welfare. “Suffering” is a mental state, resulting from different emotions, such as fear, pain, or boredom, which have different causes and effects on the animal’s behavior and physiology. What is common is that they are aversive; animals will […]

Pleasurable kingdom: Animals and the nature of feeling good

Autonomic reactions indicating positive affect during acoustic reward learning in domestic pigs

Cognitive processes, such as stimulus appraisal, are important in generating emotional states and successful coping with cognitive challenges is thought to induce positive emotions. We investigated learning behaviour and autonomic reactions, including heart rate (HR) and its variability (standard deviation (SDNN) and root mean square of successive differences (RMSSD) of a time series of interbeat […]

A spatial judgement task to determine background emotional state in laboratory rats, Rattus norvegicus

Humans experiencing different background emotional states display contrasting cognitive (e.g. judgement) biases when responding to ambiguous stimuli. We have proposed that such biases may be used as indicators of animal emotional state. Here, we used a spatial judgement task, in which animals were trained to expect food in one location and not another, to determine […]

Behavioural and physiological assessment of positive and negative emotion in sheep

The assessment of emotional states in animals, particularly positive ones, remains a scientific challenge. We investigated differences in behavioural and physiological measures recorded in sheep, Ovis orientalis aries, during situations likely to coincide with negative, intermediate and positive emotional valence. Reactions of 15 sheep were observed during separation from group members (negative valence), standing in […]