CZAAWE Resource Article

Positive interactions lead to lasting positive memories in horses, Equus caballus
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
2010
Publication/Journal 
Animal Behaviour
ISBN 
0003-3472
Abstract 
Social relationships are important in social species. These relationships, based on repeated interactions, define each partner's expectations during the following encounters. The creation of a relationship implies high social cognitive abilities which require that each partner is able to associate the positive or negative content of an interaction with a specific partner and to recall this association. In this study, we tested the effects of repeated interactions on the memory kept by 23 young horses about humans, after 6 and 8 months of separation. The association of a reward with a learning task in an interactional context induced positive reactions towards humans during training. It also increased contact and interest, not only just after training, but also several months later, despite no further interaction with humans. In addition, this [`]positive memory' of humans extended to novel persons. Overall, positive reinforcement enhanced learning and memorization of the task itself. These findings suggest remarkable social cognitive abilities that can be transposed from intraspecific to interspecific social contexts.