CZAAWE Resource Article

Positive reinforcement training as a technique to alter nonhuman primate behavior: Quantitative assessments of effectiveness
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Many suggest that operant conditioning techniques can be applied successfully to improve the behavioral management of nonhuman primates in research settings. However, relatively little empirical data exist to support this claim. This article is a review of several studies that discussed applied positive reinforcement training techniques (PRT) on breeding/research colonies of rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and measured their effectiveness. Empirical analyses quantified the amount of time required to train rhesus monkeys to come up, station, target, and stay. Additionally, a study found that time spent affiliating by female rhesus was changed as a function of training low affiliators to affiliate more and high affiliators to affiliate less. Another study successfully trained chimpanzees to feed without fighting and to come inside on command. PRT is an important behavioral management tool that can improve the care and welfare of primates in captivity. Published empirical findings are essential for managers to assess objectively the utility of positive reinforcement training techniques in enhancing captive management and research procedures.