Affect-Driven Attention Biases as Animal Welfare Indicators: Review and Methods
Institute for Global Food Security, School of Biological Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast, Medical Biology Centre, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL, UK
Research Centre in Brain and Behaviour, School of Natural Sciences and Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University, James Parsons Building, Byrom Street, Liverpool L3 3AF, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 1 June 2018
Revised: 2 August 2018
Accepted: 4 August 2018
Published: 7 August 2018
Good animal welfare requires minimizing suffering and promoting positive experiences. To achieve this, we need reliable indicators of animals’ psychological states. In humans, different moods and emotions (“affects”) are associated with changes in visual attention (“attention bias”). We review studies investigating whether attention biases are also indicators of affect in animals. Although research is limited, evidence for affect-driven attention biases has been found in several species, especially primates and livestock. These studies are discussed in relation to tasks developed for measuring attention in humans. We identify additional findings from human psychology that might be applied to animals, particularly species not studied before, and conclude that affect-driven attention bias is a promising welfare indicator. However, it may be more useful for studying responses to specific stimuli, rather than general wellbeing. With further study, we hope these findings contribute to fulfilling society’s ethical obligations towards animals.