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Animals 2018, 8(7), 121; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8070121

Valence and Intensity of Video Stimuli of Dogs and Conspecifics in Sheep: Approach-Avoidance, Operant Response, and Attention

1
Centre for Proper Housing of Ruminants and Pigs, Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office FSVO, Agroscope, Tänikon 1, 8356 Ettenhausen, Switzerland
2
Animal Welfare Division, Veterinary Public Health Institute, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, Länggassstrasse 120, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland
3
Animal Husbandry, Albrecht Daniel Thaer-Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10115 Berlin, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 24 April 2018 / Revised: 9 July 2018 / Accepted: 14 July 2018 / Published: 17 July 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Emotion)
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Simple Summary

Animals’ judgement of stimuli’s negativity or positivity cannot always be assumed. To assess the valence and intensity of video stimuli (dogs as negative vs. conspecifics as positive stimuli) in sheep, we used three experimental approaches: (1) an approach-avoidance paradigm; (2) operant conditioning using the videos as reinforcers; and (3) an attention test. We measured sheep’s behavioral and physiological reactions. Sheep generally reacted to the videos presented. Nevertheless, we found no support with the approach–avoidance paradigm, and the attention test for dog videos were more negative than sheep videos. However, the operant conditioning indicated that sheep were more prone to avoid videos of moving dogs. Overall, we found that standard video images may not be ideal to represent valence characteristics of stimuli to sheep.

Abstract

Stimuli are often presumed to be either negative or positive. However, animals’ judgement of their negativity or positivity cannot generally be assumed. A possibility to assess emotional states in animals elicited by stimuli is to investigate animal preferences and their motivation to gain access to these stimuli. This study’s aim was to assess the valence of social stimuli in sheep. We used silent videos of varying intensity of dogs as negative versus conspecifics as positive stimuli in three approaches: (1) an approach–avoidance paradigm; (2) operant conditioning using the video stimuli as reinforcers; and (3) an attention test. In the latter, we assessed differential attention of sheep to simultaneous projections by automatically tracking sheep head and ear postures and recording brain activity. With these approaches, it was difficult to support that the sheep’s reactions varied according to the stimuli’s presumed valence and intensity. The approach–avoidance paradigm and attention test did not support the assumption that dog videos were more negative than sheep videos, though sheep reacted to the stimuli presented. Results from the operant conditioning indicated that sheep were more prone to avoid videos of moving dogs. Overall, we found that standard video images may not be ideal to represent valence characteristics of stimuli to sheep. View Full-Text
Keywords: sheep; valence; video stimuli; approach–avoidance paradigm; operant conditioning; attention sheep; valence; video stimuli; approach–avoidance paradigm; operant conditioning; attention
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Raoult, C.M.C.; Gygax, L. Valence and Intensity of Video Stimuli of Dogs and Conspecifics in Sheep: Approach-Avoidance, Operant Response, and Attention. Animals 2018, 8, 121.

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