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Preview: Journal of Comparative Psychology - Vol 123, Iss 4

Journal of Comparative Psychology - Vol 131, Iss 1

The Journal of Comparative Psychology publishes original empirical and theoretical research from a comparative perspective on the behavior, cognition, perception, and social relationships of diverse species.

Last Build Date: Sat, 25 Mar 2017 19:00:26 EST

Copyright: Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association

The attribution of navigational- and goal-directed agency in dogs (Canis familiaris) and human toddlers (Homo sapiens).


Both human infants and nonhuman primates can recognize unfamiliar entities as instrumental agents ascribing to them goals and efficiency of goal-pursuit. This competence relies on movement cues indicating distal sensitivity to the environment and choice of efficient goal-approach. Although dogs’ evolved sensitivity to social cues allow them to recognize humans as communicative agents, it remains unclear whether they have also evolved a basic concept of instrumental agency. We used a preferential object-choice procedure to test whether adult pet dogs and human toddlers can identify unfamiliar entities as agents based on different types of movement cues that specify different levels of agency. In the navigational agency condition, dogs preferentially chose an object that modified its pathway to avoid collision with obstacles over another object showing no evidence of distal sensitivity (regularly bumping into obstacles). However, in the goal-efficiency condition where neither object collided with obstacles as it navigated toward a distal target, but only 1 of them exhibited efficient goal-approach as well, toddlers, but not dogs, showed a preference toward the efficient goal-directed agent. These findings indicate that dogs possess a limited concept of environmentally sensitive navigational agency that they attribute to self-propelled entities capable of modifying their movement to avoid colliding with obstacles. Toddlers, in contrast, demonstrated clear sensitivity to cues of efficient variability of goal-approach as the basis for differentiating, attributing, and showing preference for goal-directed instrumental agency. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Functions of vocalization in sociosexual behaviors in rats (Rattus norvegicus) in a seminatural environment.


Both male and female rats produce vocalizations in the presence of a potential sexual partner. In this study, we evaluated the role of vocalizations in sociosexual behaviors in an ecologically valid procedure. Three males and 4 females were housed in a seminatural environment. In each group, 1 or 2 males and females were devocalized, and the other subjects were sham operated. Sociosexual interactions between males and females were recorded for a period of 1 hr when all 4 females were receptive so that the males had the choice to interact either with vocalizing or with silent females. Devocalized and sham-operated males displayed very similar behavioral patterns. There was no difference in any of the male sexual behavior patterns nor in male-initiated nonsexual social interaction. Female vocalizations do not contribute to the regulation of sociosexual interaction. Devocalized males received as much attention from females as sham-operated males, with the exception of paracopulatory behaviors with short duration, which were more frequently directed toward the sham-operated males than to the devocalized males. This was the case for both silent and vocalizing females. It appears, then, that devocalized males are inferior to sham males with regard to the capacity to induce female paracopulatory behaviors. However, this has no consequence for sexual interaction because devocalized and sham males copulated equally based on the number of mounts, intromissions, and ejaculations. In sum, these data show that vocalizations play a very limited role in rat sociosexual behavior in a seminatural environment. Furthermore, this indicates that vocalizations have no evident function during copulatory interactions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Dogs’ (Canis familiaris) attention to human perception: Influence of breed groups and life experiences.


Attending to the perception of others may help individuals gaining information from conspecifics, or help in competitive situations. Dogs (Canis familiaris) are attentive to humans’ signals and their attentional state. We investigated whether dogs of different breed groups differ in their ability to pay attention to human’s perception, first according to the genetic relatedness between dog breeds, and second according to working style differences. Once dogs had learned to leave forbidden food on the floor, they were confronted with 2 food items to which only they had unrestricted visual access. The owners saw either none or 1 food item through a transparent barrier. Our results showed that dogs pay attention to the perception of humans, whereby differences between breed groups became obvious. Within different genetic groups, ancient and hunting type dogs performed similarly, they were more attentive to their owners’ perception than shepherd and the mastiff type dogs. When comparing dogs classified according to their working style, independent workers and family dogs were attentive to the owner’s perception, while cooperative workers seemed not. The dogs’ choice could not be explained by a general or training induced preference for eating behind an opaque screen, or by an influence of the owner’s possible intention to prevent the dog from taking the food item he could see. Our study confirms that dogs are attentive/sensitive to human’s perception, but genetic and working style differences among the breeds, as well as dog sport experiences explain part of the variation seen in their performance. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Characterization of vocalizations emitted in isolation by California mouse (Peromyscus californicus) pups throughout the postnatal period.


Rodent species, such as monogamous and biparental California mice, produce vocalizations as a means of communication. A temporal examination of vocalizations produced by California mice pups in isolation was performed. Pup recordings were performed for 3 min at ∼10.00 and 14.00 hrs on early postnatal days (PND) 2–4, 7, 21, and 28. Once initial recordings were finished, pups were returned to the home cage with parents and any siblings for 5 minutes to determine if active biparental responses resulted in an enhanced vocalization response when pups were isolated and retested. We also sought to determine whether potential reduction in vocalizations by older pups might be due to procedure-habituation procedure associated with less anxiety and/or possibly decreased need for parental care. Vocalizations were measured in weanling (30 days of age) “naïve” pups not previously isolated. Results show older pups took significantly longer to vocalize, indicated by increased latency before producing their initial syllable compared to earlier ages. With increasing age, pups demonstrated decreased syllable duration, reduced number and duration of phrases, and decreased number of syllables per phrase. No differences in pup vocalizations were observed before and after being placed back with parents, suggestive biparental potentiation may not exist in California mice pups. Comparison of the naïve to habituated weanling pups indicated the former group had more total calls but no other differences in vocalization parameters were detected between these 2 groups. Collectively, the findings suggest that as California mice pups mature and approach weaning they generally vocalize less in isolation. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Discrimination of emotional facial expressions by tufted capuchin monkeys (Sapajus apella).


Tufted or brown capuchin monkeys (Sapajus apella) have been shown to recognize conspecific faces as well as categorize them according to group membership. Little is known, though, about their capacity to differentiate between emotionally charged facial expressions or whether facial expressions are processed as a collection of features or configurally (i.e., as a whole). In 3 experiments, we examined whether tufted capuchins (a) differentiate photographs of neutral faces from either affiliative or agonistic expressions, (b) use relevant facial features to make such choices or view the expression as a whole, and (c) demonstrate an inversion effect for facial expressions suggestive of configural processing. Using an oddity paradigm presented on a computer touchscreen, we collected data from 9 adult and subadult monkeys. Subjects discriminated between emotional and neutral expressions with an exceptionally high success rate, including differentiating open-mouth threats from neutral expressions even when the latter contained varying degrees of visible teeth and mouth opening. They also showed an inversion effect for facial expressions, results that may indicate that quickly recognizing expressions does not originate solely from feature-based processing but likely a combination of relational processes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

“Wolves (Canis lupus) and dogs (Canis familiaris) differ in following human gaze into distant space but respond similar to their packmates’ gaze”: Correction to Werhahn et al. (2016).


Reports an error in "Wolves (Canis lupus) and dogs (Canis familiaris) differ in following human gaze into distant space but respond similar to their packmates’ gaze" by Geraldine Werhahn, Zsófia Virányi, Gabriela Barrera, Andrea Sommese and Friederike Range (Journal of Comparative Psychology, 2016[Aug], Vol 130[3], 288-298). In the article, the affiliations for the second and fifth authors should be Wolf Science Center, Ernstbrunn, Austria, and Comparative Cognition, Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna/ Medical University of Vienna/University of Vienna. The online version of this article has been corrected. (The following abstract of the original article appeared in record 2016-26311-001.) Gaze following into distant space is defined as visual co-orientation with another individual’s head direction allowing the gaze follower to gain information on its environment. Human and nonhuman animals share this basic gaze following behavior, suggested to rely on a simple reflexive mechanism and believed to be an important prerequisite for complex forms of social cognition. Pet dogs differ from other species in that they follow only communicative human gaze clearly addressed to them. However, in an earlier experiment we showed that wolves follow human gaze into distant space. Here we set out to investigate whether domestication has affected gaze following in dogs by comparing pack-living dogs and wolves raised and kept under the same conditions. In Study 1 we found that in contrast to the wolves, these dogs did not follow minimally communicative human gaze into distant space in the same test paradigm. In the observational Study 2 we found that pack-living dogs and wolves, similarly vigilant to environmental stimuli, follow the spontaneous gaze of their conspecifics similarly often. Our findings suggest that domestication did not affect the gaze following ability of dogs itself. The results raise hypotheses about which other dog skills might have been altered through domestication that may have influenced their performance in Study 1. Because following human gaze in dogs might be influenced by special evolutionary as well as developmental adaptations to interactions with humans, we suggest that comparing dogs to other animal species might be more informative when done in intraspecific social contexts. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Personality dimensions of the captive California sea lion (Zalophus californianus).


Although the field of animal personality research is growing, information on sea lion personality is lacking. This is surprising as sea lions are charismatic, cognitively advanced, and relatively accessible for research. In addition, their presence in captivity and frequent interactions with humans allow for them to be closely observed in various contexts. These interactions provide a valuable and unique opportunity to assess dimensions of their personality. This study created a personality survey for captive California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) using a 3-step approach that balances comprehensiveness and comparability to other species. Zookeepers (N = 43) at 5 zoological parks rated sea lions (N = 16) on 52 personality traits and 7 training traits. A principal components analysis and regularized exploratory factor analysis revealed 3 dimensions (Extraversion/Impulsivity, Dominance/Confidence, and Reactivity/Undependability). Each dimension was significantly correlated with at least 1 training trait. Pups and juveniles scored significantly higher on Extraversion/Impulsivity than adults. No other age or sex effects were present on this or any other dimension. Sea lions are cognitively complex marine mammals that represent a valuable addition to the group of species in which personality structure and function have been studied. The unique behavioral and ecological characteristics of sea lions offer another vantage point for understanding how personality varies between disparate species. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Exploring whether nonhuman primates show a bias to overestimate dense quantities.


The density bias, documented within the foraging domain for some monkey species and for human infants, emerges when perceived numerosity is affected by interstimulus distance such that densely arranged food items appear more numerous relative to the same amount of food sparsely arranged. In this study, capuchin monkeys and rhesus monkeys were presented with a computerized relative discrimination task that allowed for the control of stimulus size, interelemental distance, and overall array pattern. The main objective was to determine whether the density bias was a more widespread and general perceptual phenomenon that extends beyond the foraging domain, similar to other numerosity illusions and biases. Furthermore, we compared the current results to these same monkeys’ data from a previous study on the Solitaire numerosity illusion to investigate a potential link between a density bias and this related numerical illusion. Capuchin monkeys showed a density bias in their perceptual discrimination of dense versus sparse stimuli; however, rhesus monkeys perceived this bias to a lesser degree. Individual differences were evident, as with the Solitaire illusion. However, there was not a relation between susceptibility to a density bias and susceptibility to the Solitaire illusion within these same monkeys. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Experimental evidence of contagious stretching and ingroup bias in budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus).


Previous observational research suggests that stretching is contagious in budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus). Here we report the first experimental evidence of this response through a reanalysis of a previous experiment testing for contagious yawning in this species. Using a repeated measures design, 16 birds were tested as pairs alongside familiar and unfamiliar conspecifics with and without visual barriers. Our results show that stretching behavior was temporally clustered only when the birds could see one another, corroborating previous observational findings supporting contagion. Additionally, for the first time, we show an ingroup bias in this response. That is, while the overall frequency of stretching did not significantly differ as a function of conspecific familiarity, contagious stretching was only present when cage mates were paired together. These findings are discussed in relation to recent research studying social cognition in this species. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Do capuchin monkeys (Sapajus apella) prefer symmetrical face shapes?


In humans, facial symmetry has been linked to an individual’s genetic quality, and facial symmetry has a small yet significant effect on ratings of facial attractiveness. The same evolutionary processes underlying these phenomena may also convey a selective advantage to symmetrical individuals of other primate species, yet to date, few studies have examined sensitivity to facial symmetry in nonhuman primates. Here we presented images of symmetrical and asymmetrical human and monkey faces to tufted capuchin monkeys (Sapajus apella) and hypothesized that capuchins would visually prefer symmetrical faces of opposite-sex conspecifics. Instead, we found that male capuchins preferentially attended to symmetrical male conspecific faces, whereas female capuchins did not appear to discriminate between symmetrical and asymmetrical faces. These results suggest that male capuchin monkeys may use facial symmetry to judge male quality in intramale competition. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)