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Zoo Biol. 2018 Mar;37(2):67-73. doi: 10.1002/zoo.21400. Epub 2018 Jan 31.

Cognitive judgement bias is associated with frequency of anticipatory behavior in bottlenose dolphins.

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Laboratoire d'Ethologie Expérimentale et Comparée E.A. 4443 (LEEC), Université Paris 13, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Villetaneuse, France.
Parc Astérix, Plailly, France.


Many animals display a suite of increased vigilance and/or activity responses in relation to upcoming events, termed "anticipatory behavior." Anticipatory behavior toward positive events has been suggested as a cross-species measure of affective state as it likely reflects the balance of the reward-sensitivity system: various studies suggest that animals in poorer welfare situations show higher or excessive levels of anticipation for positive events. Another tool for evaluating animals' affective state is cognitive bias testing, and although it has been attempted, a link has not yet been made between cognitive bias and anticipatory behavior levels. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in captivity increase the performance of behaviors such as surface-looking and spy-hopping in anticipation of training sessions during which food is provided. In this study we measured anticipatory behavior frequency in bottlenose dolphins prior to positive reinforcement training sessions, and assessed whether frequency of anticipatory behavior correlated with their performance on cognitive bias tasks. We found that higher frequencies of anticipatory behavior for training sessions was significantly associated with more pessimistic judgements in cognitive bias tests, supporting previous findings linking higher reward sensitivity with negative affective states. Anticipatory behavior is an easily measured activity and could represent a welfare indicator in dolphins as well as other animals in captive environments.


animal welfare; anticipatory behavior; bottlenose dolphin; cognitive bias; reward sensitivity

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