Jennifer Vonk

Jennifer Vonk
Oakland University · Department of Psychology

PhD York University

About

162
Publications
43,029
Reads
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3,348
Citations
Introduction
Comparative and developmental cognition. Studies concept formation, memory, social and physical cognition in human and non-human primates, bears, bats and cats.
Additional affiliations
September 2011 - present
Oakland University
Position
  • Professor (Associate)
August 2011 - September 2017
Oakland University
Position
  • Professor
August 2005 - August 2011
University of Southern Mississippi
Position
  • Professor (Assistant)

Publications

Publications (162)
Article
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Comparative researchers have heavily focused their studies of social cognition on species that live in large social groups, while neglecting other potential predictors of social cognition. African crested porcupines (Hystrix cristata) are relatively rare among mammals in that they are cooperative breeders that pair for life. Little is known about t...
Article
Many species of armadillo demonstrate impressive navigation abilities and may compensate for poor eyesight with a strong sense of smell. We examined which modality four three-banded armadillos and one hairy armadillo prioritized when two cues (olfactory or spatial) previously associated with reward were put in conflict. The armadillos learned to ap...
Chapter
Researchers have studied non-human primate cognition along different paths, including social cognition, planning and causal knowledge, spatial cognition and memory, and gestural communication, as well as comparative studies with humans. This volume describes how primate cognition is studied in labs, zoos, sanctuaries, and in the field, bringing tog...
Article
In the six years since assuming the role as co-editors of this journal, we have witnessed a substantial growth in the reputation and impact of the journal. During our tenure as co-editors in chief, Animal Behavior and Cognition became the first journal specializing in research on nonhuman animals to publish pre-registered reports. Furthermore, we i...
Chapter
Evolution of Learning and Memory Mechanisms is an exploration of laboratory and field research on the many ways that evolution has influenced learning and memory processes, such as associative learning, social learning, and spatial, working, and episodic memory systems. This volume features research by both outstanding early-career scientists as we...
Article
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We adapted the emotional Stroop task developed for primates to test whether gorillas would show response slowing for images of ‘negative’ compared to images of ‘positive’ items placed within previously reinforced borders. Three zoo-housed male gorillas participated in six phases of an emotional Stroop paradigm. In Phase One, they learned to select...
Article
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Decisions about which foods to use during training and enrichment for captive animals may be based on invalid assumptions about individuals’ preferences. It is important to assess the stability of food preferences given that one-time preferences are often used to inform which items are offered over a longer period of time. Presenting preference ass...
Article
The ability to represent approximate quantities appears to be phylogenetically widespread, but the selective pressures and proximate mechanisms favouring this ability remain unknown. We analysed quantity discrimination data from 672 subjects across 33 bird and mammal species, using a novel Bayesian model that combined phylogenetic regression with a...
Article
Rating scales, such as Likert scales, are incredibly flexible and intuitive tools for measuring individuals' rating of agreement with or relative preference for many types of stimuli. For humans, this typically involves ratings of agreement between end points representing distinct attitudes or beliefs; For example, strongly disagree to strongly agr...
Poster
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Comparison of cognitive performance test results to ADHD rating scales
Article
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Other-regarding preferences demonstrated through prosocial behaviors are widely demonstrated in humans but difficult to explain from an evolutionary perspective. Comparative studies have attempted to elucidate the selective pressures for prosocial preferences, with some proposing complex sociality as a mechanism. Macaws, although not cooperative br...
Article
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Sexual attraction is a component of most romantic relationships, making it difficult to disentangle from other motives to invest in relationships. Despite the lack of sexual attraction that characterizes asexuality, many self-identified asexual individuals report the desire to enter a romantic relationship. These understudied individuals provide a...
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In natural environments, bear behavior follows seasonal patterns but the zoo environment differs from the natural environment in several ways, including the presence of zoo visitors. Although typically difficult to disentangle, we were able to tease apart the effects of seasonal changes and visitor density on the visibility and behavior of 10 bears...
Article
Enrichment is presented to improve the welfare of captive animals but sound is frequently presented with the assumption that it is enriching without assessing individuals’ preferences. Typically, presented sounds are unnatural and animals are unable to choose which sounds they can listen to or escape them. We examined preferences of three zoo-house...
Article
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Studies have examined the association between theory of mind (ToM) and prosocial behavior in children with mixed results. A handful of studies have examined prosocial sharing behavior in children with autism, who typically exhibit ToM deficits. Studies using resource allocation tasks have generally failed to find significant differences between the...
Article
The Journal of Comparative Psychology has enjoyed a century of publishing some of the best investigations of animal behavior, often with reference to human cognition and behavior. This long history has manifested many paradigm-like shifts. Researchers have fluctuated between treating animals as models of human learning to emphasizing stark differen...
Poster
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Current diagnostic criteria in the DSM 5 for ADHD are primarily focused on observable behavior (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). However, as a neurodevelopmental disorder, focus on externalized behavior can lead to false positives and negatives as practitioners are asked to discern a neurological cause from considering a set of reported beh...
Article
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Judgment bias tasks can reveal changes in affect in animals as a function of environmental manipulations such as provision of enrichment. We assessed affect in an American black bear across seasonal changes in availability of a mulberry bush. We used a novel judgment bias task in which the background color of a touchscreen signaled whether the left...
Article
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Povinelli (2000) published a series of careful studies probing chimpanzees’ understanding of physical causality in the book, “Folk Physics for Apes: The Chimpanzee’s theory of how the world works.” The studies and Povinelli’s conclusions regarding chimpanzee cognition had a significant impact on the field of comparative cognition. One enduring less...
Article
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Background Individuals experiencing negative affect have shown response slowing, a longer latency to respond in relation to baseline, when presented with aversive stimuli. We assessed response slowing in three male gorillas housed in a bachelor group as a function of daytime and nighttime housing arrangements. Methods In both experiments, three go...
Article
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Over the last two decades, evidence has accrued that at least some nonhuman animals possess metacognitive abilities. However, of the carnivores, only domestic dogs have been tested. Although rarely represented in the psychological literature, foxes are good candidates for metacognition given that they cache their food. Two experiments assessed meta...
Article
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Belief in supernatural agents is ubiquitous, as evidenced by its prevalence in religion, folklore, and cultural practices. It is theorized that, given recurrent ancestral risks of predation and frequent contact with other dangerous agents, mechanisms for agency detection may have evolved and play an important role in facilitating belief in supernat...
Chapter
Associative learning accounts have been presented as dichotomous with cognitive accounts of animal behavior. However, cognition is largely built upon associative processes. It is more fruitful to examine specific mechanisms and underlying brain structures supporting cognitive processes across diverse species without attempting to label these mechan...
Article
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Studies of prosocial behavior in nonhumans have focused on group-living social animals. Despite being highly social and closely related to humans, chimpanzees have rarely exhibited prosocial preferences in experimental tasks. Fewer studies have provided their non group-living relatives—orangutans—with the opportunity to express prosocial preference...
Chapter
A key feature that seems to separate humans and other species is humans’ ability to conceive of death. Although other species also respond differently to deceased individuals in their groups, we do not yet know what they understand about what has happened or at what point, if ever, they understand that another individual is gone permanently. Moreov...
Article
Gruber et al. (Current Biology, 29, 686–692, 2019) report that New Caledonian crows engage in mental representation to solve a problem involving a tool. Although the crows’ success is impressive, an associative account of their behavior calls into question the extent to which the data reflect representation of future states.
Article
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Reactions to a recent study suggesting that cleaner wrasse can pass the mirror self-recognition test (Kohda et al. in PLOS Biology, 17(2), e3000021, 2019) reveal more about scientists’ biases than about self-awareness. Scientists should base conclusions about species’ abilities based on the corpus of data on that species rather than on a single tes...
Article
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Little research has examined the mechanisms through which adult children adopt beliefs across a range of contexts. Through an online survey, the authors examined belief transmission via the correspondence between beliefs of 837 young adults and the perceived ideological beliefs of their caregivers as a function of attachment, parental behavior, and...
Article
Children show a bias toward information about shape when labeling or determining category membership for novel objects. The body of work with human children suggests that the shape bias is not restricted to linguistic contexts but is highly contingent on task demands. Testing nonhumans could provide additional information about the salience of shap...
Article
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Female sexual orientation has received less theoretical and empirical attention than male sexual orientation and few reviews are devoted to female sexual orientation. Moreover, research investigating female sexual orientation often underappreciates insights afforded by evolutionary theory. This review begins with an overview of the literature on fe...
Article
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Undergraduate college students were presented with two arrays of dots varying in numerosity on a computer screen and asked to indicate if the arrays differed in number. They also rated their level of confidence in their responses. Trials varied in difficulty based on the size of the arrays. On half of the trials, participants were shown the ostensi...
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The spatial-numerical association of response codes (SNARC) effect is the tendency for humans to respond faster to relatively larger numbers on the left or right (or with the left or right hand) and faster to relatively smaller numbers on the other side. This effect seems to occur due to a spatial representation of magnitude either in occurrence wi...
Article
Children (predominantly white and middle class) between 3 and 6 years (M = 55.12 months, N = 145 at Time 1, N = 102 at Time 2) participated in the prosocial choice test at two time points approximately 10 months apart. Children could share with strangers, close friends, nonfriends, and in a control, no recipient condition. Children shared more rewa...
Article
Hirata, Fuwa, and Myowa (Royal Society Open Science, 4; 170370, 2017) extended to chimpanzee subjects a paradigm that had been developed by Povinelli and colleagues (Povinelli, Landau, Child Development, 67; 1540–1554, 1996; Perilloux, Povinelli & Simon, Developmental Psychology, 34, 188–194, 1998) to demonstrate the concept of self-continuity in y...
Article
This research investigated the connections between pathological personality traits and the ability to recognize the emotional states of others. Across two studies, we found that antagonism was negatively associated with the ability to identify the emotional states of others. In addition, the sex of the participant moderated the associations that ne...
Article
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Although comparative psychologists have made considerable strides in the past several decades, expanding the breadth of species and questions examined, the field still suffers from an overemphasis on top-down approaches that begin and end with a focus on humans. This top-down perspective leads to biases and oversights that hamper the further develo...
Article
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Changes in the affective state of neglected or abused animals can be difficult to quantify relative to physical improvements following rescue. Judgment bias as a measure of affective state was assessed in 8 horses and 2 donkeys that differed in their care history (abused/neglected or nonabused/non-neglected, hereafter described as rescued/nonrescue...
Article
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In order to assess mood state in three male western lowland gorillas housed in a bachelor group, we developed a novel version of a cognitive bias task. The background color of a touchscreen presented a conditional ‘if, then…” rule relating to outcomes involving differential amounts of food rewards. The gorillas struggled to reach a criterion of 80%...
Article
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We presented two American black bears (Ursus americanus) with a serial list learning memory task, and one of the bears with a matching-to-sample task. After extended training, both bears demonstrated some success with the memory task but failed to generalize the overarching rule of the task to novel stimuli. Matching to sample proved even more diff...
Article
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Elbroch, Levy, Lubell, Quigley, and Caragiulo (2017, Science Advances, 3, e170218) used GPS and motion-activated camera technology to track and rate the interactions between solitary wild pumas. They found that tolerance at feeding sites was not predicted by kinship but, rather, indicated the ability to engage in direct reciprocity, challenging pre...
Article
We investigated how forage material affects indicators of welfare in three male Western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) at the Detroit Zoo. In addition to their maintenance diet and enrichment foods, the gorillas generally received forage material four times a week. From this baseline, we systematically manipulated how much forage materi...
Article
Aunger, Robert, and Valerie Curtis. 2015. Gaining Control: How Human Behavior Evolved. NY: Oxford University Press. 176 pages. Hardcover $45.00.
Article
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Cognitive bias tests are frequently used to assess affective state in nonhumans. We adapted the ambiguous-cue paradigm to assess affective states and to compare learning of reward associations in two distantly related species, an American black bear and three Western lowland gorillas. Subjects were presented with three training stimuli: one that wa...
Book
This stimulating and comprehensive collection brings together multiple perspectives on the topic of personality in nonhuman animals—linking historical perspectives, theoretical approaches, methods, and cutting-edge discoveries. Experts from various fields describe their findings on species ranging from dogs, cats, chimpanzees, and dolphins to shark...
Article
The visual acuity of striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) was tested using a 2 alternative forced-choice task with square wave gratings. Skunks were reinforced with food items for touching a ball in front of a striped stimulus when paired with a ball in front of a solid gray stimulus. Skunks demonstrated a maximum visual acuity of 0.42 cycles per deg...
Article
Presents an obituary for Stanley (Stan) Kuczaj II who passed away suddenly on April 14, 2016 at the age of 65 in his home in Hattiesburg Mississippi. The field of comparative cognition and animal behavior lost a leader, a friend, and a mentor that day. At the time of his passing, Stan was a fellow and the president of the Society for Comparative Ps...
Article
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Although categorization abilities may serve as the foundation for most other complex cognitive processes, this topic has been grossly understudied in the order Carnivora. However, there are a growing number of studies examining the abilities of bears, felines, and canines to discriminate among stimuli that could represent conceptual categories. The...
Article
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A growing number of studies have assessed the personality of pet owners. However, although there is a large number of people who own exotic pets, their personalities have seldom been examined. Furthermore, studies of personality of pet owners have focused almost exclusively on typical personality traits, ignoring associations with “dark” traits. He...
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This editorial endorses a diverse approach to the study of animal cognition and emphasizes the theoretical and applied gains that can be made by embracing this approach. This diversity emerges from cross-talk among scientists trained in a variety of backgrounds and theoretical approaches, who study a variety of topics with a range of species. By sh...
Article
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Once thought to be uniquely human, prosocial behavior has been observed in a number of species, including vampire bats that engage in costly food-sharing. Another social chiropteran, Jamaican fruit bats (Artibeus jamaicensis), have been observed to engage in cooperative mate guarding, and thus might be expected to display prosocial behavior as well...
Article
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On April 14th, 2016, Animal Behavior and Cognition lost its Editor-in-Chief. But the scientific community and the friends and colleagues of Stanley ‘Stan’ Kuczaj III lost so much more. As many know, Stan began his career in Developmental Psychology, making enormous contributions in the area of language development, but became best known for his man...
Article
Many animals have been tested for conceptual discriminations using two-dimensional images as stimuli, and many of these species appear to transfer knowledge from 2D images to analogous real life objects. We tested an American black bear for picture-object recognition using a two alternative forced choice task. She was presented with four unique set...
Article
Theorists have argued that religious beliefs emerged as a consequence of the human propensity to attribute mental states. However, little empirical work has explored the relationship between individual variability in theory of mind (ToM) and religious beliefs. We investigated the connection between empathy, emotional intelligence, systemizing, ToM,...
Article
Individuals are often faced with the pressure to alter their behaviors or attitudes in order to conform. Researchers have used self-esteem level to explain such conformity but have failed to account for other aspects of self-esteem. The present study examined how approval-based contingent self-esteem (i.e., basing feelings of self-worth on the appr...
Article
Benson-Amram, Dantzer, Stricker, Swanson, & Holekamp's (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113, 25321-25376, 2016) recent demonstration that larger-brained carnivores were more successful in a single problem-solving task, relative to smaller-brained carnivores, irrespective of social complexity, poses a challenge to proponents of the...
Article
The relationship between spitefulness and Theory of Mind (ToM; the ability to represent and reason about the mental states of others) has been neglected in studies of personality. However, we expected that deficits in ToM would be more likely to occur in individuals with higher levels of spitefulness compared to those with lower levels of spitefuln...
Preprint
Full-text available
Children show a bias toward information about shape when categorizing unfamiliar objects or learning new labels for objects. We presented two adult zoo-housed chimpanzees ( Pan troglodytes ) and 3- to 5-year old children with a relational matching task in which samples and comparison stimuli matched on either shape or color. Whereas children at all...
Preprint
Full-text available
Children show a bias toward information about shape when categorizing unfamiliar objects or learning new labels for objects. We presented two adult zoo-housed chimpanzees ( Pan troglodytes ) and 3- to 5-year old children with a relational matching task in which samples and comparison stimuli matched on either shape or color. Whereas children at all...
Article
Full-text available
Kano and Hirata (Current Biology, 25, 2513-2517, 2015) recently showed that apes process object and location information and anticipate the repeated presentation of such events in short film clips. Their methodology, using eyetracking, can provide a foundation for further explications of long-term prospective and episodic memory in nonverbal specie...
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Public perception of bats has historically been largely negative with bats often portrayed as carriers of disease. Bats are commonly associated with vampire lore and thus elicit largely fearful reactions despite the fact that they are a vital and valuable part of the ecosystem. Bats provide a variety of essential services from pest control to plant...
Article
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The ability of domestic dogs (C. lupus famaliaris) to follow and attend to human emotion expressions is well documented. It is unknown whether domestic cats (F. silvestris catus) possess similar abilities. Because cats belong to the same order (Carnivora), but did not evolve to live in complex social groups, research with them enables us to tease a...
Chapter
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Sex differences have not been examined thoroughly with regard to cognitive skills of typically-developed adults in both social and non-social domains. Furthermore, studies that do examine the effects of anatomical sex rarely simultaneously examine the possible role of psychological gender role orientation. This gap in the literature exists despite...
Chapter
We wished to determine the efficacy of cues from different modalities in order to better understand the cues that grizzlies may utilize to recall the location of food. In this study, two captive grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribillis; one male juvenile and one adult female) at the Detroit Zoological Society were tested for the use of spatial memor...
Article
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Theory of mind may be associated with " dark " personality features because these features are defined in part by lack of concern for the feelings of others. Participants completed measures of dark personality features as well as various indicators of theory of mind (ToM). The most consistent negative associations with ToM emerged for primary and s...
Article
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The effect of oxytocin on cognitive bias was investigated in rats in a modified conditioned place preference paradigm. Fifteen male rats were trained to discriminate between two different cue combinations, one paired with palatable foods (reward training), and the other paired with unpalatable food (aversive training). Next, their reactions to two...
Article
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Previous reports have painted a complex picture of the associations between dark personality features and emotion dysregulation. To provide a more comprehensive picture, 532 college students completed measures of dark personality features-the Dark Triad (i.e., narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism), sadism, and spitefulness-and emotion dysr...
Article
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The current study expanded on prior research by investigating a connection between specific aspects of religiosity and the tendency to attribute supernatural or material causation to social and physical events. To that end, college undergraduates were asked to determine the causes of events that varied in terms of the nature, outcome, and likelihoo...
Article
Kin recognition requires the ability to discriminate between one's own genetic relatives and non-relatives. There are two mechanisms that aid in kin discrimination: phenotype matching and familiarity. Dogs may be a good model for assessing these mechanisms as dogs are a promiscuous social species with a keen sense of smell. Domestic dogs of both se...