Article

The efficacy of a secondary reinforcer (clicker) during acquisition and extinction of an operant task in horses

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Abstract

“Clicker training” is a popularly promoted training method based on operant conditioning with the use of a secondary reinforcer (the clicker). While this method draws from theories of learning and is used widely, there has been little scientific investigation of its efficacy. We used 60 horses, Equus callabus, and assigned each horse to one of six reinforcement protocols. The reinforcement protocols involved combinations of reinforcers administered (primary versus secondary plus primary), schedule of reinforcement (continuous versus variable ratio), and reinforcers applied during extinction (none or secondary). There were no differences (P≥0.11) between horses which received a secondary reinforcer (click) followed by the primary reinforcer (food) and those which received only the primary reinforcer (food) in the number of trials required to train the horses to touch their noses to a plastic cone (operant response). There also were no differences (P≥0.12) between horses which received the secondary reinforcer plus primary reinforcer and those which received only the primary reinforcer in regards to the number of trials to extinction. We conclude that there is no difference in the amount of training required to learn the operant task or in the task’s resistance to extinction between horses that received a secondary reinforcer followed by a primary reinforcer versus horses which received only a primary reinforcer.

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... The results also indicated that the conditioned reinforcement did not prolong extinction of lever pressing, but that it did result in more responses when the animals were subsequently presented with a new task to learn. In a similar study Williams, Friend, Nevill, and Archer (2004) investigated the acquisition and extinction of a novel nose-touch behaviour with horses using clicker training. A 5 s delay was manually inserted between the administration of the conditioned reinforcement (click) and the subsequent hand-delivery of unconditioned reinforcement (food). ...
... There is an inherent difficulty in controlling all of the variables in applied (vs. laboratory) situations (Langbein et al., 2007;McCall & Burgin, 2002;Smith & Davis, 2008;Williams et al., 2004); this may contribute to such results. ...
... Because dogs are receptive to human body language, these unintentional cues may provide more information to dogs than their owners realise even acting as conditioned reinforcement prior to the delayed intentional reinforcement. The possibility of this has been raised elsewhere as well (Martin & Friedman, 2011;Smith & Davis, 2008;Williams et al., 2004) but there is no known published data on this. When positive reinforcement is delayed experimentally but preceded by an immediate signal, these signals can function as conditioned reinforcers (Lattal, 2010). ...
Conference Paper
Behaviour problems are a leading reason for relinquishment of dogs, and dog training is associated with a reduced prevalence of behavioural issues. Earlier observational studies have shown that dog owners often delay the delivery of positive reinforcement during everyday dog training. Subsequent experimental research found that similar-length (1 s) delays to reinforcement have a detrimental impact on dogs’ abilities to learn a novel task. Despite this, dog training is frequently successful. It was hypothesised that people provide unintentional feedback that might function as reinforcement, facilitating dogs’ learning. The aim of this study was to investigate what signals owners may give to their dogs during training, in addition to intentional positive reinforcement which may be delayed. Twenty-one owners were filmed training their dogs to perform basic tasks (e.g., a nose-touch response). The footage was analysed for the order and timing of the events that followed the dogs’ responses, including conditioned reinforcement (e.g., verbal praise), unconditioned reinforcement (e.g., treats), and human body movements. The most common sequence of events following a dog’s correct response was for the owner to make a body movement, then to give verbal praise, followed by treat delivery. Owners made body movements as their first response in 75% of 287 trials (food was also delivered in 94% of these trials); 82% of these were hand movements. The average total trial time was 1.40 s (longer than the time that negatively impacted on dogs’ learning in experimental conditions; Browne et al., 2014). However, the average delay to a body movement was just 0.32 s. Because body movements followed dogs’ responses so rapidly and consistently, they probably functioned as conditioned reinforcers. Advice to people training dogs should emphasise speed and consistency when delivering feedback to dogs.
... There is very little recent research investigating the efficacy of a secondary reinforcer or a bridging stimulus in cats. Although the efficacy of using a bridging stimulus has been investigated in horses and dogs (McCall and Burgin, 2002;Smith and Davis, 2008;Williams et al., 2004;Wood, 2008), conclusions about the efficacy of a bridging stimulus differ. When a clicker was used to train an operant task in horses, there was no difference in the amount of training required when a secondary reinforcer being used as a bridging stimulus was followed by a primary reinforcer compared to using a primary reinforcer alone (Williams et al., 2004). ...
... Although the efficacy of using a bridging stimulus has been investigated in horses and dogs (McCall and Burgin, 2002;Smith and Davis, 2008;Williams et al., 2004;Wood, 2008), conclusions about the efficacy of a bridging stimulus differ. When a clicker was used to train an operant task in horses, there was no difference in the amount of training required when a secondary reinforcer being used as a bridging stimulus was followed by a primary reinforcer compared to using a primary reinforcer alone (Williams et al., 2004). When trained with a secondary reinforcer, horses have experienced extinction of the desired behavior (McCall and Burgin, 2002). ...
... However, no difference in the number of trials to attain this level was seen between groups. Similarly, horses displayed no difference in the number of trials needed to be trained to touch their nose to a plastic cone whether they received a click followed by food (bridging stimulus) and food only (Williams et al., 2004). In contrast, goats trained to discriminate between 2-dimensional shapes using an auditory bridging stimulus outperformed goats that were only given a primary reinforcer (water) (Langbein et al., 2007). ...
Article
Positive reinforcement training with cats is a useful tool for improving the human animal bond, treating behavior problems and teaching novel tasks. In part one of this study, three cats were assessed for extinction to a conditioned stimulus, in part two of the study we attempted to train nine cats to nose touch a target using one of three positive reinforcement methods. The three positive reinforcement methods included training the novel task by using a primary reinforcer, a bridging stimulus and a secondary reinforcer. The efficacy of the positive reinforcement method was assessed by the number of trials and length of time it took to achieve the task. There were significant time differences between the two successful groups; the primary reinforced group acquired the task quicker than the bridging stimulus group. The secondary reinforced group was not successful in achieving the novel task. However, there were no significant differences in the number of trials it took the successful groups to acquire the task. Utilizing primary reinforcement training in cats may be more effective than using a bridging stimulus or a secondary reinforcer when comparing the time taken to achieve a novel task.
... However surprisingly, while this technique is increasingly promoted in the horse industry, when riders use a CS to replace the stimuli used in the initial stages of training (Baragli et al., 2015), its efficiency remains to be demonstrated scientifically. Two previous studies tested its efficacy in extinction in horses, but no effect was found (McCall and Burgin, 2002;Williams et al., 2004). Among the different parameters that could explain this absence of effect, one is the number of associations between the US (e.g. ...
... Despite a total of 288 associations between the CS (the word "good") and the US (food), this study did not demonstrate that conditioned reinforcement (CR) was effective in helping maintain the success rate when the food reward was omitted. The efficacy of the CR was not improved by increasing the number of associations compared to previous studies (McCall and Burgin, 2002;Williams et al., 2004). ...
... Our study may have failed to show the efficacy of conditioned reinforcement because the horse was unable to identify the relevance of the word ("good"). However, it should be noted that previous studies cited used a clicker or buzz type sound and also failed to show any efficacy (McCall and Burgin, 2002;Williams et al., 2004). ...
Article
The use of conditioned reinforcers is increasingly promoted in animal training. Surprisingly, the efficiency of their use remains to be demonstrated in horses. This study aimed to determine whether an auditory signal which had previously been associated with a food reward 288 times could be used as a conditioned reinforcer to replace the primary reinforcer in an unrelated operant conditioning procedure. Fourteen horses were divided into two groups of 7: No Reinforcement (NR) and Conditioned Reinforcement (CR). All horses underwent nine sessions of Pavlovian conditioning during which the word "good" was associated with food (32 associations/session). The horses then followed five sessions of operant conditioning (30 trials/session) during which they had to touch a cone signaled by an experimenter to receive a food reward. The last day, horses underwent one test session of the operant response: no reward was given, but the word "good" was said each time a CR horse touched the cone. Nothing was said in the NR group. CR horses did not achieve more correct trials than NR horses during the test. These findings again show that the conditioned reinforcement was ineffective when used instead of the primary reinforcement to maintain conditioning.
... For our purposes, the crucial comparisons involved three groups: horses that received only food for correct responding during training and nothing during extinction; horses that received food plus clicker during training and nothing during extinction; and, horses that received food plus clicker during training and a clicker during extinction. Williams et al. (2004) found that none of these groups acquired the target response more quickly or emitted more responses during extinction. These results supported those of McCall & Burgin (2002) suggesting that adding a clicker to the training procedures did not produce advantages when training horses to touch cones. ...
... In sum, existing research suggests that adding a clicker to positive-reinforcement-based training does not present advantages above unconditioned reinforcers alone. Four out of the five studies found that presentation of a click with food did not lead to faster learning during training or better performance (McCall & Burgin, 2002;Williams et al., 2004; 1 One might argue that, although the emphasis is on bridging responsereinforcer relationships, they really are targeting the relationship between the stimulus conditions immediately following a response and the reinforcer (i.e., a stimulus-stimulus relationship)-making bridging and marking similar. Even if true, a response is different than a response product (Palmer et al., 2004). ...
... Pryor (1999) proposed three potential functions of the click: marking, bridging, and conditioned reinforcement. Some clicker trainers have compared these terms to the same findings from basic empirical research (Feng, Howell & Bennett, 2016;McCall & Burgin, 2002;Smith & Davis, 2008;Williams et al., 2004). However, the two groups differ in how they functionally use these terms which makes direct comparison difficult. ...
Article
Full-text available
In clicker training, animal trainers pair a small device (a ''clicker'') with a reward when teaching or maintaining responding. Animal trainers often assume clicker training is a ''science-based'' way to train animals. But, the few studies that have compared clicker training to a control have not provided evidence that adding a clicker is beneficial to training. This may be because research on clicker training has studied only one of several potential functions of the clicker stimulus that have been discussed by animal trainers. A systematic approach to researching the function of the clicker in clicker training would benefit from collaboration between applied and basic researchers. However, this will require that terminological differences between animal trainers and basic researchers are reconciled. This paper reviews the few studies that have compared clicker training to a control group and then discusses how trainers and basic researchers use the same terminology in functionally different ways-suggesting the empirical support for mechanisms underlying clicker training is less robust than previously assumed. These differences highlight many opportunities to answer basic and applied research questions relative to clicker training methods. Advancements in clicker training methods will benefit animal trainers who have been using clicker training for decades as well as applied practitioners who have extended clicker training to humans in educational and clinical settings.
... In applied settings, it has been proposed that clicker training can decrease the required time to perform a task and can also help animals be more motivated to work during a training trial [6,7,11,12]. Nevertheless, some studies in dogs, cats, and horses suggest that clicker training does not decrease training time compared to other SRs or a primary reinforcer alone [1,[13][14][15][16]. On the other hand, one study showed that using a sound as SR in dwarf goats (Capra hircus) resulted in higher rates of task acquisition compared to animals trained with a primary reinforcer alone [17]. ...
... According to some studies [11,12,22], animal trainers consider that dogs trained with a clicker learn more quickly and that a clicker is easier to use to teach behaviors than training with a primary reinforcer alone. However, studies in controlled situations have struggled with finding those mentioned benefits [1,[13][14][15][16]. To compare the efficiency of a clicker and voice, we trained piglets to fetch an object. ...
... On the other hand, if we consider the complete sequence of fetching an object as a single behavior, our results indicate that piglets from the clicker group required fewer repetitions to learn it compared to animals from the voice group. Because some studies [1,[13][14][15][16] indicate that clicker training does not decrease training time used to achieve simple behaviors, such as nose touching a target [16] or lever pressing [1], we believe that the complexity in a given trained behavior emphasized the differences in effectiveness between the clicker and other forms of training. Altogether, it suggests that the use of a clicker can accelerate the learning of complex behavior, but does not have the same effect on the simple behavior. ...
Article
Full-text available
Animal training is meant to teach specific behavioral responses to specific cues. Clicker training (CT) is a popular training method based on the use of a device that emits a sound of double-click to be associated as a first-order conditioned stimulus in contingency with positive reinforcements. After some repetitions, the clicker sound gains some incentive value and can be paired with the desired behavior. Animal trainers believed that CT can decrease training time compared to other types of training. Herein, we used two-month old miniature piglets to evaluate whether CT decreased the number of repetitions required to learn complex behaviors as compared with animals trained with voice instead of the clicker. In addition, we compared the number of correct choices of animals from both groups when exposed to object discriminative tests. Results indicated that CT decreased the number of repetitions required for pigs to learn to fetch an object but reduced the ability of animals to make correct choices during the discriminate trials. This suggests that CT is more efficient than voice to teach complex behaviors but reduces the ability of animals to use cognitive processes required to discriminate and select objects associated with reward.
... Empirical investigations of the efficacy of clicker training in animal learning typically compare the effect of an auditory reward-predicting signal (such as a clicker) followed by a primary reinforcer with the effect of a primary reinforcer alone (control group). Such studies have been conducted in the following companion animal species: horses (McCall and Burgin 2002;Williams et al. 2004), dwarf goats (Langbein et al. 2007), and dogs (Blandina n.d.;Chiandetti et al. 2016;Smith and Davis 2008). As reviewed by Feng et al. (2016), the findings are surprisingly inconclusive. ...
... Perhaps those researchers conducting the studies are using the tool in a different way to how it is used in applied settings. Scientific evaluation of clickers in both dogs (Smith and Davis 2008) and horses (Williams et al. 2004) used protocols that tested the clicker for its power as a secondary reinforcer. Williams et al. (2004) found no effect of the clicker as a secondary reinforcer in horses. ...
... Scientific evaluation of clickers in both dogs (Smith and Davis 2008) and horses (Williams et al. 2004) used protocols that tested the clicker for its power as a secondary reinforcer. Williams et al. (2004) found no effect of the clicker as a secondary reinforcer in horses. Likewise, Smith and Davis (2008) also found no difference in rate of task acquisition between clicker and non-clicker groups. ...
Article
Full-text available
Clicker training refers to an animal training technique, derived from laboratory-based studies of animal learning and behaviour, in which a reward-predicting signal is delivered immediately following performance of a desired behaviour, and is subsequently followed by a reward. While clicker training is popular amongst dog training practitioners, scientific evaluation in applied settings has been largely unsuccessful in replicating the benefits of reward-predicting signals seen in laboratory animal studies. Here we present an analysis of dog trainers’ advice and perceptions, conducted to better understand clicker training as it occurs in the dog training industry. Twenty- five sources (13 interviews with dog trainers, 5 websites, and 7 books) were analysed using a deductive content analysis procedure. We found that, for many sources, “clicker training” referred not only to the technique, but also to a philosophy of training that emphasises positive reinforcement and the deliberate application of Learning Theory principles. Many sources reported that clicker training was fun, for both dog and handler, but that it could be frustrating for handlers to learn and sometimes cumbersome to juggle the extra equipment. In addition, while most sources recommended clicker training particularly when training new behaviours, many stated that it was no longer needed once the dog had learned the desired behaviour. When comparing industry recommendations to methods used in applied studies, different criteria were used for predictor signal conditioning. Inadequate conditioning of the predictor signal in empirical evaluations could partly explain the lack of learning benefits in applied studies. While future research is needed to verify the practitioner beliefs in a wider population, these results provide an in-depth description of what clicker training is, at least for the sources analysed, and a potential starting point for understanding methodological factors that could contribute to previous studies’ failure to demonstrate the benefits purported to exist by industry practitioners.
... The results also indicated that the conditioned reinforcement did not prolong extinction of lever pressing, but that it did result in more responses when the animals were subsequently presented with a new task to learn. In a similar study Williams, Friend, Nevill, and Archer (2004) investigated the acquisition and extinction of a novel nose-touch behaviour with horses using clicker training. A 5 s delay was manually inserted between the administration of the conditioned reinforcement (click) and the subsequent hand-delivery of unconditioned reinforcement (food). ...
... There is an inherent difficulty in controlling all of the variables in applied (vs. laboratory) situations (Langbein et al., 2007;McCall & Burgin, 2002;Smith & Davis, 2008;Williams et al., 2004); this may contribute to such results. ...
... Because dogs are receptive to human body language, these unintentional cues may provide more information to dogs than their owners realise even acting as conditioned reinforcement prior to the delayed intentional reinforcement. The possibility of this has been raised elsewhere as well (Martin & Friedman, 2011;Smith & Davis, 2008;Williams et al., 2004) but there is no known published data on this. When positive reinforcement is delayed experimentally but preceded by an immediate signal, these signals can function as conditioned reinforcers (Lattal, 2010). ...
Conference Paper
Dogs are very responsive to human cues, thus it is reasonable to assume that subtle feedback from humans affects dog training efficacy. Research on other species has shown that delays to reinforcement can result in longer average times to task acquisition and relatively lower rates of responding. The aim of this study was to examine owners’ latencies to reinforce their dogs’ responses during basic dog training, and dogs’ responses during this training. Video observations were made at three dog obedience clubs. Times between specific events were measured and dogs’ responses noted. Participants’ latency to deliver the first instance of reinforcement ranged from 0 to >6 s. In addition, 44% of commands elicited no response from the dogs. Additional results will be discussed.
... Various forms of clicker training (Skinner, 1951; Pryor, 1999 Pryor, , 2005 Fjellanger, 2003) have been used to teach a variety of tasks to horses (Flannery, 1997; Ferguson and Rosales-Ruiz, 2001; Williams et al., 2004), as well as human cancer detection to dogs (Willis et al., 2004; McCulloch et al., 2006). Such training employs a clicker, a device that emits a distinct, double-click sound. ...
... Pryor (2005) asserts that dogs trained with food reinforcements alone are often eager, but that they learn slowly without the clear signal provided by the clicker. Despite the popularity of clicker training among pet owners and professional animal trainers, we know of only two studies (McCall and Burgin, 2002; Williams et al., 2004) that have investigated clicker training techniques, neither of which involved dogs or showed much support for superior efficacy of this training method over the delivery of food alone. The use of conditioned reinforcers plus food did not decrease the amount of training required to teach novel behaviours to horses compared with using food alone (McCall and Burgin, 2002; Williams et al., 2004). ...
... Despite the popularity of clicker training among pet owners and professional animal trainers, we know of only two studies (McCall and Burgin, 2002; Williams et al., 2004) that have investigated clicker training techniques, neither of which involved dogs or showed much support for superior efficacy of this training method over the delivery of food alone. The use of conditioned reinforcers plus food did not decrease the amount of training required to teach novel behaviours to horses compared with using food alone (McCall and Burgin, 2002; Williams et al., 2004). Additionally, conditioned reinforcers had no effect on how long horses continued the newly-acquired behaviours in extinction trials in which primary reinforcement (food) was withheld (McCall and Burgin, 2002; Williams et al., 2004). ...
Article
Despite its popularity among pet owners and professional trainers, we are not aware of any studies that have investigated the efficacy of clicker training in canines. To this end, we taught 35 basenjis to nose-touch an orange traffic cone. Upon meeting pre-determined criteria, dogs progressed through: (1) training trials, wherein correct responses were followed immediately with a click plus food (clicker group) or food alone (control group); (2) strengthening trials, wherein dogs received the same reinforcement protocol as in training trials, except nose-touching behaviour was variably reinforced; and (3) extinction trials, wherein food was withheld from both groups, but dogs in the clicker group received a click alone for nose-touches. We found that the clicker and control groups did not differ with regard to the number of trials or the time required to meet training or strengthening criteria (P > 0.05 for all). However, the clicker group required significantly more trials (log 10 transformed means AE S.E. = 1.6 AE 0.03 trials versus 1.4 AE 0.03 trials, P < 0.001) and more time (log 10 transformed means AE S.E. = 2.85 AE 0.03 s versus 2.73 AE 0.03 s, P = 0.008) to reach extinction criterion. Additionally, younger dogs required fewer training (h 2 p ¼ 0:304, P = 0.001) and strengthening (h 2 p ¼ 0:140, P = 0.029) trials and less training (h 2 p ¼ 0:221, P = 0.005) and strengthening (h 2 p ¼ 0:180, P = 0.013) time to meet criteria than did older dogs. However, no age effect was found on extinction for either the number or duration of trials (P > 0.05 for both), implying that persistence in previously reinforced behaviour did not influence the age sensitivity found in task acquisition. Overall, these results suggest that, whereas the clicker may prolong behaviour without primary reinforcement, it does not reduce the training time of a simple operant task in dogs when primary reinforcement is briefly delayed. We speculate that the clicker may be most useful in maintaining established behaviours when primary reinforcement is unavailable or when its delivery is impractical.
... There is somewhat more consistency in the training literature with regards to the efficacy of clicker training for behavior acquisition-namely, that it is often no better than other secondary reinforcers or the use of primary reinforcement alone. In some of the earliest studies to compare clicker training to primary reinforcement alone in domesticated animals, similar protocols were used to shape horses (Williams et al., 2004) and dogs (Smith & Davis, 2008) to perform the novel behavior of touching their nose to a cone with either primary reinforcement alone or the sound of the clicker followed by primary reinforcement. The behavior was then placed under extinction, with secondary reinforcement administered to half of the clicker-trained horses and all of the clicker-trained dogs. ...
... The behavior was then placed under extinction, with secondary reinforcement administered to half of the clicker-trained horses and all of the clicker-trained dogs. Neither study found a difference in the number of trials the animals required to reach training criterion across training conditions, and while Williams et al. (2004) found that neither condition nor administration of secondary reinforcement during extinction influenced the total number of trials required to reach extinction, Smith & Davis (2008) found that dogs trained with the clicker required significantly more time and trials to extinguish the behavior when primary reinforcement was discontinued. Although the continued presence of a secondary reinforcer is expected to slow behavioral extinction due to a less pronounced change in the stimulus configuration from training to extinction (Pearce, 2008;Williams, 1994), Smith & Davis (2008) suggested that the difference between their findings with dogs and Williams et al. (2004) results with horses could be a true species difference in behavioral processes. ...
... Neither study found a difference in the number of trials the animals required to reach training criterion across training conditions, and while Williams et al. (2004) found that neither condition nor administration of secondary reinforcement during extinction influenced the total number of trials required to reach extinction, Smith & Davis (2008) found that dogs trained with the clicker required significantly more time and trials to extinguish the behavior when primary reinforcement was discontinued. Although the continued presence of a secondary reinforcer is expected to slow behavioral extinction due to a less pronounced change in the stimulus configuration from training to extinction (Pearce, 2008;Williams, 1994), Smith & Davis (2008) suggested that the difference between their findings with dogs and Williams et al. (2004) results with horses could be a true species difference in behavioral processes. Additionally, factors such as heightened arousal to the sound of the mechanical clicker, frustration, or the inability to discriminate between testing and extinction conditions (Kelleher & Gollub, 1962;Williams, 1994) could also play a role in increased resistance to extinction for clicker-trained dogs but not horses. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background A handheld metal noisemaker known as a “clicker” is widely used to train new behaviors in dogs; however, evidence for their superior efficacy compared to providing solely primary reinforcement or other secondary reinforcers in the acquisition of novel behavior in dogs is largely anecdotal. Methods Three experiments were conducted to determine under what circumstances a clicker secondary reinforcer may result in acquisition of a novel behavior more rapidly or to a higher level compared to other readily available reinforcement methods. In Experiment 1, three groups of 30 dogs each were shaped to emit a novel sit and stay behavior of increasing duration with either the delivery of food alone, a verbal stimulus paired with food, or a clicker with food. The group that received only a primary reinforcer reached a significantly higher criterion of training success than the group trained with a verbal secondary reinforcer. Performance of the group experiencing a clicker as a secondary reinforcer was intermediate between the other two groups, but not significantly different from either. In Experiment 2, three groups of 25 dogs each were shaped to emit a nose targeting behavior and then perform that behavior at increasing distances from the experimenter using the same three methods of positive reinforcement as in Experiment 1. No statistically significant differences between the groups were found. In Experiment 3, three groups of 30 dogs each were shaped to emit a nose-targeting behavior upon an array of wooden blocks with task difficulty increasing throughout testing using the same three methods of positive reinforcement as previously tested. No statistically significant differences between the groups were found. Results Overall, the findings suggest that both primary reinforcement alone as well as a verbal or clicker secondary reinforcer can be used successfully in training a dog to perform a novel behavior, but that no positive reinforcement method demonstrated significantly greater efficacy than any other.
... The results of these two studies are partly contradictory: McCall and Burgin (2002), investigating the number of trials required by horses to learn an operant response, found evidence that secondary reinforcement might facilitate operant learning. In the second study, also in horses, Williams et al. (2004) based on their results concluded that acoustical secondary reinforcement did not facilitated operant learning. In another publication by Flannery (1997), a combined application of primary and secondary reinforcement was used during shape discrimination learning of horses, however, without testing the impact on learning. ...
... perience with the secondary reinforcer. However, when the secondary reinforcer was not paired with the primary reinforcer any more, the horses lost interest in the new task after only a few further trials. The authors concluded that secondary reinforcement has a positive effect on learning only when paired with primary reinforcement at a high rate. Williams et al. (2004) recently published different results. They did not find any difference with regard to the number of trials needed to learn an operant task in horses that received primary plus secondary reinforcement compared to horses that received primary reinforcement only. In contrast to the study of McCall and Burgin (2002), who had presented the s ...
... They did not find any difference with regard to the number of trials needed to learn an operant task in horses that received primary plus secondary reinforcement compared to horses that received primary reinforcement only. In contrast to the study of McCall and Burgin (2002), who had presented the secondary reinforcer immediately before the primary reinforcer, Williams et al. (2004) had used a delay of 5 s between secondary and primary reinforcement. As Tombaugh and Tombaugh (1969) and recently Mazur (1997) have shown, as delay of reinforcement increases, it gets harder to establish an association between the operant behaviour and reinforcement. ...
Article
The use of secondary reinforcement is widely accepted to support operant learning in animals. In farm animals, however, the efficacy of secondary reinforcement has up to now been studied systematically only in horses ("clicker training"), and the results are controversial. We investigated the impact of acoustical secondary reinforcement on voluntary, self-controlled visual discrimination learning of two-dimensional shapes in group-housed dwarf goats (Capra hircus). Learning tests were conducted applying a computer-controlled learning device that was integrated in the animals' home pen. Shapes were presented on a TFT-screen using a four-choice design. Drinking water was used as primary reinforcement. In the control group (Gcontrol, n = 5) animals received only primary reinforcement, whereas in the sound group (Gsound, n = 6) animals got additional acoustical secondary reinforcement. Testing recall of shapes which had been successfully learned by the goats 6 weeks earlier (T1), we found a weak impact of secondary reinforcement on daily learning success (P = 0.07), but not on the number of trials the animals needed to reach the learning criterion (trials to criterion, n.s.). Results in T1 indicated that dwarf goats did not instantly recall previously learned shapes, but, re-learned within 250-450 trials. When learning a set of new shapes (T2), there was a strong influence of secondary reinforcement on daily learning success and on trials to criterion. Animals in Gsound reached the learning criterion earlier (P P control. Results suggest that acoustical secondary reinforcement supports visual discrimination learning of dwarf goats, especially when the task is new and the salience of S+ is low
... For instance, horses have been shown to be able to learn to press a panel to gain access to social contact, feed, or in order to be released into a paddock (Lee et al., 2011;Søndergaard et al., 2011). They can learn to touch a cone with their nose when a handler gives a specific verbal command (Williams et al., 2004) and are able to discriminate visual symbols, associate them to specific outcomes and therefore communicate their preference to humans by touching symbols on a display board (Mejdell et al., 2016). ...
... The influence of individual characteristics, such as sex or age, on equids' learning capabilities, is a debated topic. As for sex, some studies on equids' ability to learn pointed out that it does not affect significantly the success of learning of an operant conditioning task (Proops et al., 2009;Williams et al., 2004;Wolff and Hausberger, 1996). However, evidence of younger females learning faster than stallions was provided by Wolff and Hausberger (1996), in accordance with our results. ...
Article
Despite donkeys being involved in various activities with humans, their cognitive and learning abilities are still little known. A deeper understanding of their perceptive, cognitive and learning processes is, thus, necessary to preserve their well-being and establish a good human-animal bond. An operant conditioning task was applied to explore donkeys’ learning abilities. Nine out of 14 adult and non-working donkeys of both sexes fully completed a three-phases training procedure. In the first phase, animals could approach the manipulandum, a specifically designed cabin with a button on the front side. Thereafter, donkeys had to learn how to interact with the button to obtain a feed reward. To evaluate donkeys’ learning capabilities, two linear models were built: i) a fixed-effects model, exploring how the average between-pressures time (BPT) was affected by individual characteristics (i.e. age, sex, and donkeys’ height at the withers) and the training session; and ii) a mixed-effects model to evaluate the difference in the average between-pressures time among consecutive sessions (BPTcs) in the function of the animals’ characteristics, including the sessions-lags as the random effect. In the first model, all the explanatory variables resulted significantly associated with the BPT observed variability. Male donkeys presented a BPT significantly higher, increased by 23.14 seconds (S.E.=9.71, p=0.003) compared to females of the same height and age. Age was significant with a positive coefficient (Est.=1.21, S.E.=0.55, p=0.032). The ‘high’ height class estimate was significant (Est.=13.06, S.E.=6.26, p=0.032), while no significant effects were identified between the ‘medium’ and ‘short’ and the ‘medium’ and ‘high’ height classes. Lastly, the variable ‘session’ was significant with a negative coefficient (Est.=-10.64, S.E.=1.56, p<0.0001), indicating an increase in the average speed to perform the desired behaviour for each additional training session. In the second model, the variable ‘sex’ was the only predictor significantly associated with the BPTcs, indicating that the male group progressively improved performance time faster than females (Est.=-8.71, S.E.=4.19. p=0.045). This pilot study: i) provides insights into donkeys learning abilities by applying an effective methodology for operant conditioning; ii) it highlights how intrinsic animal characteristics might affect asses training performances, although further points need to be explored in future research; iii) it confirms that feed represents an effective positive reinforcement in operant conditioning with donkeys. The development of appropriate handling and training methods, respectful of animals’ subjective experiences and based on positive practices, can improve donkeys’ welfare and their relationship with humans.
... I grant that the efficacy of a clicker as a secondary reinforcer has not been unambiguously demonstrated, at least not when it comes to the speed with which animals acquire new behaviours (see e.g. Smith and Davis, 2008; Williams et al., 2004 – but note Langbein et al., 2007). However, the horse study to which the authors refer (Williams et al., 2004) use a rather large temporal discounting (Benson and Stephens, 1996) – a 5 second interval from click to food delivery, which, as the authors point out, will not lead to maximal conditioning. ...
... Smith and Davis, 2008; Williams et al., 2004 – but note Langbein et al., 2007). However, the horse study to which the authors refer (Williams et al., 2004) use a rather large temporal discounting (Benson and Stephens, 1996) – a 5 second interval from click to food delivery, which, as the authors point out, will not lead to maximal conditioning. Furthermore, I would argue that the merit of a secondary reinforcer on the issue of motivation is not how fast the animal learns the task but how willing the animal is to " play the game " and keep responding – resistance to extinction would be of greater importance for neurological studies and here the clicker has been found to have a clear effect (Smith and Davis, 2008). ...
Article
In this reply, I contest the reply of the NC3R's Working Group to my critique of their report on refinement in behavioural neuroscience research involving food or fluid control. I argue that much of their hesitation to my suggested techniques is unfounded. I question the default use of deprivation regimes, suggest alternatives and insist that proper trainer skill (seemingly an overlooked variable) is pivotal in successfully accomplishing the desired performance goals.
... Clicker method includes positive reinforcements only. The reason why mean heart rate in Clicker method is higher than in Parelli method is the excitement of the horses to food reward used as the positive reinforcement in Clicker method (Williams et al. 2004). In the groups Parelli method is applied as the last method in combination with others, the application takes less time. ...
... Similarly, Dougherty and Lewis (1992), showed that horses' responses depend on positive reinforcement a great deal. Many other studies emphasize the correlation between positive reinforcement and training horses in new responses (Feng et al. 2016;Flannery, 1997;Sappington and Goldman, 1994;Williams et al. 2004). The findings of the present study are similar to many other experimental types of research (Heird et al. 1986;Lansade et al. 2004;Visser et al. 2002) in that horse training decrease the stress horses are exposed to and improve their emotional responses in facing unfamiliar conditions. ...
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The effect of the combination of various training methodologies in horse training on the learning performances of Arabian horses Sibel DANIŞAN 1 ,Ceyhan ÖZBEYAZ 2 1 Eskişehir Osmangazi University, Mahmudiye Horse Breeding and Coaching Vocational School, Department of Plant and Animal Production, Horse Breeding and Coaching Program, Eskişehir, Turkey 2 Ankara University, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Animal Husbandry, Ankara, Turkey Viewed : 45 - Downloaded : 25 This research aims at examining the learning performance of Arabian horses with the use of Join-up, Parelli`s Seven Games, and Clicker methods in combination and separately. In the research, thirty-six Arabian mares were examined and combinations of training methods were applied. Before and after the application of each training method, horses were directed to pass through a narrow-spaces and to walk on a tarp. While applying training methods, stress parameters, behavioral responses, and learning responses of horses were evaluated. The highest heart rates of the training groups were being during the application of the Join-up method. When the Parelli method was performed last, the training duration was 13.3% shorter. In walk on tarp task, the highest success score was in Clicker Method (75%). In the triple combination of training, when the Join-up method was performed last, task success rates decreased (33.3%). However, when the Join-up method was performed first, the success rate was 100%. When Parelli's methods were applied last, conflict behaviors were prevented, all horses learned vocal cues, and trusted their trainers. During the application of the Clicker method, all horses learned vocal cues and trusted their trainers. It was concluded that the order of methods is so crucial. Keywords : Behavior, Horse Training, Welfare
... In order to address the efficacy of learning through clicker training, one possibility is that of systematically comparing the training time needed to learn a new behaviour when clicker training is used as compared to other training methods. Two studies investigated this issue using clicker with horses (McCall and Burgin, 2002;Williams et al., 2004) and in both cases no reduction in training time was recorded when learning was assisted with clicker rather than without clicker. Similarly, results obtained with dogs showed no advantage related to clicker use: dogs trained with the clicker learned the new behaviour in the same amount of time as dogs trained with food alone (Smith and Davies, 2008). ...
... Although we should be cautious in drawing any strong conclusion from statistically non-significant results, our study is consistent with previous works conducted in different laboratories with both dogs and horses (Smith and Davies, 2008;McCall and Burgin, 2002;Williams et al., 2004), which, taken together, point toward no advantage in favor of the shaping method using one acoustic signal over another. Moreover, at best the allegedly beneficial effect of clicker would seem to be rather small to justify its systematic usage during training, despite some clear advantages discussed in the previous section. ...
Article
In the attempt to verify clicker training efficacy in shaping dogs’ novel behaviours, we studied 51 domestic dogs. Learning was evaluated in three different conditions: when the primary reinforcer (food) was presented in association with (a) a clicker; (b) a spoken word, a condition absent in previous works on clicker; (c) alone. The three groups were balanced with respect to age, gender and breed; all dogs were naïve with respect to training experience and were shaped by two trainers. After reaching a learning criterion of 8 consecutive correct trials out of 10, each dog was tested for its ability to generalize the learned behaviour in two conditions, one similar and one different from the training condition.
... Research has shown that the application of positive reinforcement is associated with an increase in explorative equine trial and error responses (Innes and McBride, 2008). Experimentally, equine response rates closely match the relative frequency of positive reinforcement available (Dougherty and Lewis, 1992), and several studies have reported the efficacy of positive reinforcement in teaching discrete responses (Fiske and Potter, 1979; Flannery, 1997; Sappington and Goldman, 1994; Williams et al., 2004). In a comparison study of positive and negative reinforcement training methods for neglected horses, Innes and McBride (2008) found those exposed to schedules of positive reinforcement were more likely to emit the target responses and subsequently received more frequent reinforcement . ...
... Shaping was shown to be effective in a study with five problemloader horses by Ferguson and Rosales-Ruiz (2001) who utilized " clicker training " methods by pairing the sound of a clicker with food presentation approximately 20–30 times over 2 days (Pryor, 1985; Williams et al., 2004). This ensured that the sound of the clicker functioned as a conditioned reinforcer. ...
Article
Inappropriate behavior during common handling procedures with horses is often subject to aversive treatment. The present study replicated and extended previous findings using differential reinforcement to shape appropriate equine handling behavior. In Study 1, a multiple baseline across subjects design was used with four horses to determine first the effects of shaping target-touch responses and then successive approximations of full truck loading under continuous and intermittent schedules of reinforcement. Full loading responses were shaped and maintained in all four horses and occurrences of inappropriate behaviors reduced to zero. Generalization of the loading response was also observed to both a novel trainer and trailer. In Study 2, a changing criterion design was used to increase the duration of feet handling with one horse. The horse's responding reached the terminal duration criterion of 1min and showed consistent generalization and one-week maintenance. Overall, the results of both studies support the use of applied equine training systems based on positive reinforcement for increasing appropriate behavior during common handling procedures.
... Clicker training, in which positive reinforcers are used, started to be preferred in the 1990s and continues to be popular today (Kurland 2001). Various forms of clicker training have been used to teach a variety of tasks to horses (Flannery 1997, Ferguson and Rosales-Ruiz 2001, Williams et al. 2004). Skinner's theory of operant conditioning (1938) proposes that animals learn to "operate" their world based on the consequences of their behaviours. ...
... Danışan and Özbeyaz (2021) who compared three different training methods in horses in their study, found that obedience behaviour and the rate of success in the task were higher and startle-threat behaviors were lower with the clicker method. McCall and Burgin (2002) and Williams et al. (2004) reported in their study on horses that the clicker method did not reduce training time compared with using only food as a primary reinforcer, and there was no difference between the groups in terms of the forgetting time of the behaviour. However, McCall and Burgin (2002) state that horses that have received secondary reinforcement in the past respond more accurately than other horses in a new training. ...
Article
Encouraging horses to do tasks willingly during training relating to their welfare is important. Horses are trained for desensitization using de-spooking tracks. In this study, the efficacy of using the clicker method during desensitization to obstacles and novel objects is investigated. Fourteen Arabian horses participated in the study. Their success in completing the tasks, as well as their heart rate and behaviour were examined. The average achievement for the hanging pool noodle door task was significantly higher (P<0.05) in the clicker group (100%) than in the control group (43%). Average heart rate is highly significant (P<0.01) in the clicker group (139.28 pcs/minute) than the control group (109.42 pcs/minute). In the scope of frightening behaviours, "trot" was determined highly significant (P<0.01) in the control group than the clicker group. Clicker training appears to provide an advantage due to its ease of application, low cost, and fast learning by horses. The findings suggest that this method is advisable because of its efficacy during desensitizing of horses using the de-spooking track. Fulfilling tasks willingly during training is also important for the horse’s welfare and the trainer’s safety. Key Words: Behavioural training, clicker method, desensitizing, horse, learning theory
... Secondary reinforcers are being increasingly utilised in operant learning studies with horses and farm animals (e.g., Flannery, 1997;Morehead and Rosales-Ruiz, 2006), although their efficacy has rarely been discussed. McCall and Burgin (2002) and Williams et al. (2004) trained horses in learning tasks with and without the use of a secondary reinforcer, finding no difference between training techniques in time to extinction. This would suggest that the secondary reinforcer was of little benefit, although both studies found that a connection was established between the primary and secondary reinforcer. ...
... All thirteen heifers trained in phase 1, achieved the success criterion by day 4 after a maximum of 80 repetitions. Other studies of clicker training herbivores either did not condition study animals to the clicker prior to the operant task or did not record the number of trials or time taken to achieve criterion (Flannery, 1997;McCall and Burgin, 2002;Williams et al., 2004;Langbein et al., 2007). However, the learning rate of heifers was comparable to that of calves tested in an earlier experiment where the same criterion was achieved after a maximum of 5 days of training and 100 repetitions (Whistance, 2007). ...
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Soiled bedding influences cleanliness and disease levels in dairy cows and there is no evidence of an inherent latrine behaviour in cattle. If cows were trained to use a concrete area of the housing system as a latrine, a cleaner bed could be maintained. Thirteen group-housed, 14–16-month-old Holstein-Friesian heifers, were clicker trained with heifer-rearing concentrate pellets as a reward. Training was carried out in four phases. (Phase 1) Association of feed reward with clicker, criterion: 34/40 correct responses. (Phase 2) Simple task (nose-butting a disc) to reinforce phase 1 association, criterion: 17/20 correct responses. (Phase 3) Association of eliminative behaviour with reward where criterion was four sessions with only one incorrect response: criteria for each heifer in phases 1–3 were set using binomial tests. (Phase 4) Shaping eliminative behaviour to occur on concrete. Possible responses were, eliminating on concrete (C) or straw (S), or moving from one substrate to another immediately before eliminating: C→S, S→C. Heifers were rewarded for the desired behaviours C and S→C and ignored when S and C→S occurred. If learning was achieved, C should increase as C→S decreased and S→C should increase as S decreased: tested with Spearman rank correlations. All heifers achieved criterion by day 4 of phase 1 (P=0.001); day 1 of phase 2 (P=0.001) and day 10 of phase 3 (P
... The efficacy of the secondary reinforcer generally diminishes, as Westlund mentions, so the test is whether the rate of response is greater with the addition of a secondary reinforcer to the paradigm. For the case of clicker training with horses, in one extensive study, there was no advantage, leading the authors to suggest that the availability of the primary reinforcer is by itself the predominant factor guiding the animal's behaviour (Williams et al., 2004). However, the secondary reinforcer in this study was poorly implemented, because the time between the conditioned stimulus response and unconditioned stimulus response was 5 s. ...
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In this short communication, we respond to Westlund's critique of the NC3Rs Working Group report on refinement of the use of food and fluid control as motivational tools for macaques used in behavioural neuroscience research. The suggestions Westlund makes – in particular, the use of conditioned reinforcers and variable ratio schedules – were considered by the Working Group but were not included in the report as specific recommendations. We outline the reasons for this and also address some misunderstandings of our position.
... Several studies have explored the efficacy of SPR training in multiple species with varying results (Langbein, Siebert, Neurnberg, & Manteuffel, 2007;Whistance, Sinclair, Arney, & Phillips, 2009;Williams, Friend, Nevill, & Archer, 2004). There is substantial evidence to support the efficacy of positive reinforcement training among nonhuman primates (reviewed in Laule & Whittaker, 2007; as well as studies to show its success in bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus; Phillips, Grandin, Graffam, Irlbeck, & Cambre, 1998), nyala (Tragelaphus angasi; Grandin et al., 1995), and giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca; Bloomsmith et al., 2003) for veterinary and captive management. ...
Article
Many trainers of animals in the zoo now rely on positive reinforcement training to teach animals to voluntarily participate in husbandry and veterinary procedures in an effort to improve behavioral reliability, captive management, and welfare. However, captive elephant handlers in Nepal still rely heavily on punishment- and aversion-based methods. The aim of this project was to determine the effectiveness of secondary positive reinforcement (SPR) in training free-contact elephants in Nepal to voluntarily participate in a trunk wash for the purpose of tuberculosis testing. Five female elephants, 4 juveniles and 1 adult, were enrolled in the project. Data were collected in the form of minutes of training, number of offers made for each training task, and success rate for each task in performance tests. Four out of 5 elephants, all juveniles, successfully learned the trunk wash in 35 sessions or fewer, with each session lasting a mean duration of 12 min. The elephants' performance improved from a mean success rate of 39.0% to 89.3% during the course of the training. This study proves that it is feasible to efficiently train juvenile, free-contact, traditionally trained elephants in Nepal to voluntarily and reliably participate in a trunk wash using only SPR techniques.
... The results of our experiment suggest that subsequent replay of music post weaning has beneficial effects on welfare. The nature of these beneficial effects may be described in terms of three different mechanisms: first, since music as a contextual cue has been associated to a reward (access to a playroom), it can be regarded as a secondary reinforcer; i.e. a previously neutral stimulus that has gained reinforcing properties by its association with primary rewards, as expressed in terms of both behaviour (Williams et al., 2004) and brain reward systems (Everitt et al., 1989; Spruijt et al., 2001; Fields et al., 2007). Second, since music as a contextual cue has a duration of 15 min, replay of music will have reinforcing properties longer than for instance the presentation of discrete stimuli as secondary reinforcers (Williams, 1970). ...
Article
In this experiment, we investigated whether music can facilitate play behaviour in piglets after weaning, when that music had been presented preweaning as a contextual cue associated with access to a playroom. One group of piglets was given daily access to a playroom preweaning while music was played during the entire play period (Playroom group, n=6 pens). The control group was daily exposed to the music as well, but this group was not given access to the playroom (NO Playroom group; n=6 pens). It was hypothesized that replay of music post weaning (on post-weaning days W2, W3 and W6) would facilitate play behaviour above and beyond the previously reported effects of preweaning playroom exposure per se. The results confirm that music replay post weaning does facilitate play behaviour in the Playroom group. The results also showed that playroom exposure preweaning reduced the number of injuries post weaning (W1, W2 and W3). In contrast with our expectations, music replay also facilitated play behaviour in the control group, although significantly less so than in the Playroom group. The results are discussed in relation to the possibilities to use music as a tool to improve welfare in animal husbandry systems.
... However, the learned behavior was extinguished quickly in the absence of the primary reinforcer. Conversely, Williams et al., (2004) did not find an effect of secondary reinforcement. Dwarf goats trained with a secondary reinforcer (sound) presented together with the primary one (water) proved to remember and learn more quickly and efficiently than goats without the secondary reinforcement (Langbein et al., 2007b). ...
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Precision livestock production (PLP) is the augmentation of precision agriculture (PA) concepts to include all components of agroecosystems, particularly animals and plant-animal interactions. Soil, plants and soil-plant interactions are the subjects of PA or site-specific farming, where the main principle is to exploit natural spatial heterogeneity to increase efficiency and reduce environmental impacts. For the most part, PA has been studied and developed for intensive cropping systems with little attention devoted to pastoral and agropastoral systems. PLP focuses on the animal component and exploits heterogeneity in space and among individual animals towards more efficient and environmentally friendly production. Within PLP, precision grazing consists of the integration of information and communication technologies with knowledge about animal behavior and physiology to improve production of meat, milk and wool in grazing conditions. Two main goals are to minimize overgrazing of sensitive areas and to maximize the quality of the product through enhanced traceability. An integrated precision grazing system is outlined with its components: sensors of animal position, behavior and physiological status, real-time transmission of information to a decision support system, and feed-back through a series of actuators. Control of animal movement and diets is based on knowledge about species specific responses to various stimuli within the paradigms of flavor aversions and operant conditioning. Recent advances in the technologies and instrumentation available are reviewed briefly and linked to current livestock identification systems. The precision grazing vision is presented in full and the areas that need further research and development are discussed.
... Hat sich die Kuh nach dem Kopfstoß noch über die Nase geleckt, einen Schritt zur Seite gemacht und akustisch geäußert , ist es für das Tier logischer, die Strafe mit dem tatsächlich zuletzt gezeigten Verhalten zu verbinden. Ausserdem wird durch Belohnung (und dies muss nicht immer Futter sein) die Motivation des Tieres, das für uns richtige Verhalten zu zeigen, aufrecht erhalten und gefördert (siehe auch: Innes und McBride, 2008, und Williams et al., 2004). ...
Article
A species-appropriate cattle handling is necessary for reducing dangerous accidents and creating a good human-animal relationship. Knowledge about the special animal perception, generic cattle characteristics and classic learning theories as habituation, classical- and operant conditioning are the basics for being a successful livestock handler.
... The next step was to shape the behavior of pressing the panel with the nose. To accomplish this, clicker training was employed, although recently Williams et al. (2004) have found no advantage in speed of learning using this method. While the horse was in the straight stall, a clicker would be clicked a few times and the horse would receive a small grain reward with each click. ...
Article
Operant conditioning and two choice preference tests were used to assess the motivation of horses to be released from straight and from box stalls. The motivations for food, a companion, and release into a paddock were compared when the horses had to work for each commodity at increasing fixed ratios of responses (panel presses) to reward in an equine operant conditioning stall. The motivation for food (mean±SEM=258±143) responses was much greater than that for either release (38±32) from a straight stall into a large paddock alone or into a small paddock with another horse (95±41) (P=0.04). When given a two choice preference test between exercise on a treadmill for 20min or returning to their box stalls, eight of nine horses chose to return to their stalls. In a two choice preference test six of eight horses in box stalls chose to be released into a paddock alone. Horses were given a series of two choice preference tests to determine how long they preferred to be in a paddock. After 15min in the paddock the horses were re-tested, but all chose the paddock when released into a paddock with three other horses. They were retested every 15min until they chose to return to their stalls. They chose to stay out for 35±6min when other horses were in the paddock but for only 17±2min when they would be alone. When deprived of stall release for 48h the horses chose to remain in the paddock with other horses for 54±6min, but showed no compensatory behavior when they were alone (duration chosen=16±4min). These findings indicate that horses are not strongly motivated to exercise alone and will choose not to endure forced exercise on a treadmill. The social context of voluntary exercise is important; horses are willing to stay out of their stalls longer if other horses are present and will show compensatory behavior only if other horses are present. These finding have implications for optimizing turnout time for stalled horses.
... Horses were trained to touch a target (traffic cone) pointed out by an experimenter using a gestural cue. The task was adapted from Williams et al. [24] and Whistance et al [25]. This task is considered an instrumental task because the horse had to perform an action (touching the cone) under the influence of reinforcement factors (positive reinforcement: food reward) when detecting a particular stimulus (a distal cue given by the experimenter). ...
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The present study investigates how the temperament of the animal affects the influence of acute stress on the acquisition and reacquisition processes of a learning task. After temperament was assessed, horses were subjected to a stressor before or after the acquisition session of an instrumental task. Eight days later, horses were subjected to a reacquisition session without any stressor. Stress before acquisition tended to enhance the number of successes at the beginning of the acquisition session. Eight days later, during the reacquisition session, contrary to non-stressed animals, horses stressed after acquisition, and, to a lesser extent, horses stressed before acquisition, did not improve their performance between acquisition and reacquisition sessions. Temperament influenced learning performances in stressed horses only. Particularly, locomotor activity improved performances whereas fearfulness impaired them under stressful conditions. Results suggest that direct exposure to a stressor tended to increase acquisition performances, whereas a state of stress induced by the memory of a stressor, because it has been previously associated with the learning context, impaired reacquisition performances. The negative effect of a state of stress on reacquisition performances appeared to be stronger when exposure to the stressor occurred after rather than before the acquisition session. Temperament had an impact on both acquisition and reacquisition processes, but under stressful conditions only. These results suggest that stress is necessary to reveal the influence of temperament on cognitive performances.
... Operant-conditioning techniques have been used to train and modify horse behavior (Murphy and Arkins, 2007), and could be useful for the elimination of undesirable behaviors. Although differential positive reinforcement is effective for training and maintaining desirable behavior with horses (Ferguson and Rosales-Ruiz, 2001;Slater and Dymond, 2011;Williams et al., 2004), it is unclear if positive reinforcement can be used to reduce or eliminate undesirable behavior. ...
Article
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Biting and chewing by horses on crossties can result in injury to the handler and damage to equipment. Operant-conditioning techniques have been used to train horses and could be used to reduce or eliminate undesirable biting and chewing. Presently, a differential-reinforcement-of-other-behavior (DRO) schedule, in the context of a reversal design, was effective in reducing biting and chewing in two horses. In DRO schedules, a reinforcer is delivered contingent on the absence of a target behavior for a specified interval. Positive-reinforcement procedures offer an alternative to aversive-control techniques typically used in equine training and may provide for better equine welfare and horse-human interaction.
... Operant learning or conditioning is a training technique employed within several aspects of equestrianism (Cooper, 1998). Scientific research in this area of equine learning is relatively sparse to date, but it is certainly warranted (Miyashita et al., 2000; McLean, 2001; Williams et al., 2004 ). Training and subsequent learning in the horse are particularly aggravated by delayed, conflicting or meaningless cues and reinforcements. ...
Article
Scientists and equestrians continually seek to achieve a clearer understanding of equine learning behaviour and its implications for training. Behavioural and learning processes in the horse are likely to influence not only equine athletic success but also the usefulness of the horse as a domesticated species. However given the status and commercial importance of the animal, equine learning behaviour has received only limited investigation. Indeed most experimental studies on equine cognitive function to date have addressed behaviour, learning and conceptualization processes at a moderately basic cognitive level compared to studies in other species. It is however, likely that the horses with the greatest ability to learn and form/understand concepts are those, which are better equipped to succeed in terms of the human-horse relationship and the contemporary training environment. Within equitation generally, interpretation of the behavioural processes and training of the desired responses in the horse are normally attempted using negative reinforcement strategies. On the other hand, experimental designs to actually induce and/or measure equine learning rely almost exclusively on primary positive reinforcement regimes. Employing two such different approaches may complicate interpretation and lead to difficulties in identifying problematic or undesirable behaviours in the horse. The visual system provides the horse with direct access to immediate environmental stimuli that affect behaviour but vision in the horse is of yet not fully investigated or understood. Further investigations of the equine visual system will benefit our understanding of equine perception, cognitive function and the subsequent link with learning and training. More detailed comparative investigations of feral or free-ranging and domestic horses may provide useful evidence of attention, stress and motivational issues affecting behavioural and learning processes in the horse. The challenge for scientists is, as always, to design and commission experiments that will investigate and provide insight into these processes in a manner that withstands scientific scrutiny.
... The training procedures commenced on week 2 of the trial. Positive reinforcement training (PR) was applied by employing the clicker method as previously described (Williams et al., 2004). In brief, the sound of the clicker was converted to a secondary conditioned reinforcer through pairing with a food reward (primary reinforcer). ...
Article
Rescued equids are often exposed to rehabilitation and training (or retraining) programmes to improve their physical and psychological well-being as well as to facilitate the re-homing process. Training uses either positive or negative reinforcement learning procedures and it is considered here that, there may be welfare implications associated with using the latter technique as it has the potential to overlay acute stress on animals with a chronic stress life history. The aim of this study, therefore, was to compare these training strategies (negative versus positive reinforcement) on equine behaviour and physiology as the first step in establishing an optimal rehabilitation approach (from a welfare perspective) for equids that have been subjected to chronic stress in the form of long-term neglect/cruelty. Over a 7-week period, 16 ponies (aged 6-18 months) were trained using either positive ('positive') (n = 8) or negative reinforcement ('negative') (n = 8) techniques to lead in hand, stand to be groomed, traverse an obstacle course and load into a trailer. Heart rate was measured (5 s intervals) on days 1 and 4 of each training week, 'Pre'- (1 h), 'During' (0.5 h) and 'Post'- (1 h) training session. Ethograms (10.00-20.00 h) outside of the training period were also compiled twice weekly. In addition, weekly arena tests (as a measure of reactivity) were also performed I week before and during the 7 weeks of training. Results showed significant differences between the two training schedules for some measures during the latter stages of the trial and suggested that animals trained under a positive reinforcement schedule were more motivated to participate in the training sessions and exhibited more exploratory or 'trial and error' type behaviours in novel situations/environments. In this context, the incorporation of positive reinforcement schedules within a rehabilitation programme may be of benefit to the animal from a welfare perspective.
... Personality traits related to intelligence and learning ability are likewise expected to impact equine welfare as slow learners will experience repeated negative reinforcement or punishment, while exceptionally intelligent or fast learning horses might likewise experience undue amounts of punishment as they might make undesired associations between unintentional cues and events. A large number of studies focused on various aspects of equine learning behaviour, although most commonly, studies on equine learning are based on positive reinforcement [253][254][255][256][257][258][259] rather than negative reinforcement [211,260,261], which is the most commonly used method in practical horse training [262,263]. Since learning based on rewards via food or pleasurable tactile stimuli likely relies on fundamentally different underlying motivations compared to learning based on negative reinforcement via tactile stimuli, it is uncertain in how far results from the former studies are transferable to most practical settings. ...
Article
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Personality and its various sub-traits such as temperament can be defined as behavioural attitudes that remain relatively stable across time and situations. However, various personality models exist. Contrasting their strengths and weaknesses leads to the conclusion that there is presently no model that is truly superior to others in depicting animal personality. Furthermore, the present review highlights aspects in which animal, and in particular equine personality potentially relate to animal welfare. Three approaches are examined which may be taken to improve welfare: (1) genetically selecting for personality traits that make the horses better adapted to their designated work and/or husbandry conditions, (2) assessing personality in individual horses to optimize matching with owners and type of work and (3) influencing the ontogeny of personality traits, e.g. by specific training and husbandry regimes. Each of these strategies has its merit, but as a prerequisite, valid personality assessment methods are required. Although publication bias is likely present, most testing procedures yield acceptable inter-observer reliabilities and repeatabilities across time, even if repeatability across situations tends to be comparably low. Heritability esti-mates ranging mostly between h 2 =0.15 and h 2 =0.40 for traits assessed in personality tests are likewise promising. Research has paid less attention to intra-observer reliability, construct validity or discriminant ability, but based on pleiotropy it is argued that the latter is not essential for a trait to be valid. Therefore, some valid methods are available for use in assessment and subsequent selection of horses or personality-influencing strategies, ultimate resulting in reduction of stress in horses' everyday life.
... As targeting is trained using positive reinforcement, the cued movement is driven by a desire to access reward, as opposed to being motivated by a desire to avoid an aversive (as would occur if the horse was responding to a cue trained via negative reinforcement). Published studies describing target training in horses are still extremely limited at this time [59,66,92,114,115,118,119]. ...
Article
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Husbandry and veterinary procedures have the potential to generate fear and stress in animals. In horses, the associated responses can pose a significant safety risk to the human personnel involved in the procedure, as well as to the animal itself. Traditionally, physical restraint, punishment, and/or threat of an aversive, have been the most common strategies used to achieve compliance from the horse. However, from a welfare perspective, this is less than ideal. This approach also has the potential for creating a more dangerous response from the horse in future similar situations. When caring for companion animals, and captive animals within zoological facilities, there has been a steady transition away from this approach, and toward strategies aimed at reducing fear and stress during veterinary visits and when undertaking routine husbandry procedures. This review discusses the current approaches to horse care and training, the strategies being used in other animal sectors, and potential strategies for improving human safety, as well as the horse’s experience, during husbandry and veterinary procedures.
... Some individuals showed repetitive response of learned behavior, other looked into the bowl again and again, or pushed/bit the bowl and the target. It is believed that those behaviors were signs of frustration (Williams et al., 2004). ...
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Equine husbandry is carried out In an environment unnatural to horses, which enforces their adaptation to artificial conditions. Besides housing conditions, the mangement and human-horse relationship is very important for both human safety and a high level of animal welfare and performance. This would not be possible if horses were not able to learn. For equestrians, independently of the horse’s use (sport, work, recreation, therapy etc.) the performance is of the highest importance. Deep knowledge about learning mechanisms is essential to maintain high level of horses’ welfare and to achieve effective training. Cognition can be influenced by motivation and stress. Motivational mechanisms are based on positive or negative reinforcement but still it is not knowm what motivates horses more and how food motivation influence learning. It was already shown that a low level of motivation decreases animal performance. The effect of stress is an increasingly popular research topic. It has been shown that acute stress decreases horses’ learning performance, but the exact standard is still unknown. The Yerkes-Dodson law claims that low and too high arousal decreases learning. What is more, the relation between learning and sex, breed and some temperamental traits has been shown in several studies.
... Animals in the experimental groups have been exclusively exposed to pairings of the target stimulus to be conditioned (e.g., beep, clicker, or spoken word) followed by food, while animals in the comparison groups are trained with food only or conditioned reinforcement only (i.e., no pairings between the target stimulus and food are scheduled [28]). Some of these studies have also investigated resistance to extinction [24][25][26]28,33,34], which has been described in the applied and basic research literature as a procedure to demonstrate the relative effectiveness of conditioned reinforcers (i.e., extinction test [35][36][37]). In contrast, few studies have investigated the efficiency of clicker training by comparing a continuous pairing of click and food versus an intermittent pairing (for a discussion of these points see [38,39]) or click versus spoken word plus food [27,29]. ...
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A conditioned reinforcer is a stimulus that acquired its effectiveness to increase and maintain a target behavior on the basis of the individual's history-e.g., pairings with other reinforcers. This systematic review synthesized findings on conditioned reinforcement in the applied animal training field. Thirty-four studies were included in the review and six studies were eligible for a meta-analysis on the effectiveness of behavioral interventions that implemented conditioned reinforcement (e.g., clicks, spoken word, or whistles paired with food). The majority of studies investigated conditioned reinforcement with dogs (47%, n = 16) and horses (30%, n = 10) implementing click-food pairings. All other species (cats, cattle, fish, goats, and monkeys) were equally distributed across types of conditioned (e.g., clicker or spoken word) and unconditioned reinforcers (e.g., food, water, or tactile). A meta-analysis on the effectiveness of conditioned reinforcement in behavioral interventions found a medium summary effect size (Tau-U 0.77; CI 95% = [0.53, 0.89]), when comparing baseline, where no training was done, and treatment levels. Moderators of conditioned reinforcement effectiveness were species (e.g., horses) and research design (e.g., multiple-baseline designs). The small number of intervention-focused studies available limits the present findings and highlights the need for more systematic research into the effectiveness of conditioned reinforcement across species.
... For example, several animaltraining studies demonstrated that using a clicker did not improve learning outcomes relative to direct delivery of the food (without the clicker). Each of these studies either introduced the clicker through response-independent pairings of clicks and food (Dorey et al., 2020;Smith & Davis, 2008;Williams et al., 2004) or did not clearly describe how the clicker was introduced (Chiandetti et al., 2016;Feng et al., 2018). It is possible that the procedures used to introduce the click affect the extent to which the click serves as a discriminative stimulus for the consummatory response. ...
Article
The communities of behavior analysts and animal trainers remain relatively disconnected, despite potentially beneficial links between behavioral principles and the practices of animal training. Describing existing links between research by behavior analysts and practices used by animal trainers may foster connections. In this paper, we describe an approach used by many clicker trainers, referred to as loopy training. Loopy training is a teaching process built around the concept of movement cycles. Interactions between the animal learner and the handler are refined into predictable, cyclical patterns that can be expanded into complex sequences. These sequences include cues, target responses, conditioned reinforcers, and consummatory responses. We link the foundations of loopy training to existing work in the experimental analysis of behavior, compare loopy training to other shaping approaches, and describe areas for future research. We conclude with a series of recommendations for further developing connections between behavior analysts and animal trainers, using loopy training as the foundation for our suggestions.
... "Charging the clicker" -The individuals were trained to associate the sound of the clicker to a food reward, i.e. the trainer clicked and then rewarded the animal systematically. Once the animals learn this contingency, the clicker can then be used as a "bridge" and a secondary reinforcer to precisely point the behaviour to reinforce (Feng et al. 2016;Williams et al. 2004). ...
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To date, the use of positive reinforcement techniques to study locomotion in non-human primates remains poorly developed. However, using cooperative animals that can freely move in experimental setup allows us to collect valuable and relevant data and makes these repeatable and comparable between species. Based on the current knowledge and our experience, we present an experimental approach that aims at reaching the standards of the study of human movement in a non-human primate, the olive baboon, Papio anubis, thanks to the use of positive reinforcement techniques. This report documents the training protocol that we set up at the Primatology station of the CNRS (France). We further elaborate on the importance of conducting such experiments for a better and finer understanding of the bipedal behaviour in non-human primates. Experimental studies including cooperative animals that can freely move are likely to represent valuable experimental tools to fill important gaps of knowledge in the study of locomotion in general, and in the study of the acquisition of habitual bipedal walking in hominins.
... Because "snorting" was considered as an indicator of a relaxation phase associated with positive emotions (Stomp et al., 2018), we confirmed that "snorting" was expressed even more by horses in a good mood. It may be related to using a food reward as an additional reinforcement by which horses are easily motivated by food or titbits (Williams et al., 2004). Moreover, the advantage of successive approximation is that it enables horses to have many successes on the way to learning the final behavior, which is likely to encourage positive emotional states associated with training (Starling et al., 2016). ...
Article
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A horse learning about the entrance to narrow, cage‐shaped places may be challenging both for the horses as well as for the owners. For some behaviors, such as loading into a trailer or climbing onto a treadmill, the final behavioral goal can be achieved by working towards it in stages. This study compared the successive approximation of horses to their first work on a treadmill with horses hardly ever loaded (HE L) and regularly loaded (R L) into a trailer. Fourteen horses were divided into two groups (HE L n = 7 and R L n = 7) based on their experiences of entering into a trailer. All horses were taught using four stages of successive approximation. The average lead time was longer in the HE L than in the R L group, both in the first (HE L: 33.8 ± 12.4 s; R L: 17.6 ± 12.9 s; p = 0.035) and last stages (HE L: 12.0 ± 10.3 s; R L: 3.7 ± 1.0 s; p = 0.032) of trials. With the subsequent repetitions of each step, the heart rate decreased in both groups. Very few behaviors indicating fear or unwillingness (“rearing,” “sideways,” and “backwards”) were observed. Horses that were regularly loaded exhibited signs of relaxation. The successive approximation of horses to the first work on a treadmill differed and may depend on the previous experiences with loading and travelling in the confined space of a trailer.
... The cues "sit" and "paw" were then continuously asked, following a previously-randomized order. For the "sit" cue, the trainer stood in front of the dog and pronounced the cue, maintaining eye contact with him/her; if the dog voluntarily sat down, the trainer captured the behavior with the clicker and offered the reward (i.e., free shaping [33]). If the dog did not sit after five seconds, the cue was repeated. ...
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The inclusion of life history as a possible influential factor is pivotal in studies on behavior, welfare, and cognition. Shelter dogs have usually experienced a life involving poor social interactions with humans. Thus, we aimed to investigate the behavioral responses of shelter dogs (SDs) and companion dogs (CDs) during the training of two vocal cues (“sit”, “paw”), as well as the possible associations between their responses and the behaviors of trainers. We studied 15 SDs and 15 CDs in up to eight five-minute training sessions. Dogs’ and trainers’ behaviors were recorded and analyzed (through GLM, GLMM, correlation and Mann–Whitney tests). Shelter dogs responded to more cues per session, with shorter latencies and fewer repetitions of cues. Moreover, SDs spent more time wagging their tails. Dogs’ sex and trainers’ behaviors were also associated with differences in dogs’ responses. The use of a reproachful tone of voice was associated with a greater number of cues responded to, shorter latencies, and fewer repetitions of cues. However, this type voice/discourse was also linked to a greater exhibition of non-training behaviors (e.g., exploring the room or jumping on the trainer), and to dogs spending less time next to the trainer and wagging their tails. On the other hand, the use of a neutral tone of voice and laughter, besides being linked to performance, was also associated with longer durations of tail wagging. Furthermore, the duration of the trainers’ orientation to dogs was correlated with the orientation of the dogs to the trainers. Our data suggest that, even when having experienced social deprivation from humans, SDs’ capacities to learn vocal cues were preserved, possibly due to ontogenic homeostasis processes. Shelter dogs’ greater interest in the sessions may be also credited to their socially-deprived routine. Our outcomes also point to an association between friendly interactions during training and dog performance and excitement, which suggests that such interactions may have the potential to improve SD welfare.
... The owner used clicker training to train the pony to accept intervention on the eye. Clicker training is a popular method of training horses based on operant conditioning with the use of a secondary reinforcer (Williams et al. 2004). The owner used carrots as primary reinforcers and a clicking noise produced by the tongue as a secondary reinforcer ('click'). ...
Article
This clinical case describes a 14‐year‐old Gypsy Cob gelding presented for suspected impaired vision. Given the apparently insidious presentation, bilateral equine recurrent uveitis (ERU) was strongly suspected. ERU management was addressed both clinically and from a welfare point of view. Treatment using ointment was preferred to eye drops to reduce the frequency of administration. Clicker training was used to facilitate treatment administration by eliciting positive emotions. In response to the progressive bilateral blindness, social and physical environments and new relational practices were adapted to reduce stress on the pony by increasing predictability and controllability of his situation. This case is to our knowledge the first to include detailed welfare management strategies as a part of a more comprehensive medical approach to ERU.
... Their conclusion was that secondary reinforcers are practical when training horses to learn new tasks, though it should be repeated with primary reinforcers for the effectiveness to be maintained. Williams et al. (2004) investigated the difference between using a primary reinforcer alone and using a secondary reinforcer followed by a primary reinforcer. Alfalfa cubes were used as a primary reinforcer and a clicker sound as the secondary. ...
Article
Since the time of domestication, humans have trained horses for the purpose of serving man. Different training methods have been developed throughout the centuries; some were developed with consideration for the horse’s welfare, while others disregarded welfare to a great extent. Most present day training is based upon making the horse perform a desired behaviour through dominance and subordination. Although cooperative training techniques have gained popularity, everyday training lacks the application of learning theory or neglects the horse’s learning capacities and their species’ specific behaviour. Thus, the horse’s welfare may be jeopardised. The aim with this review is to consider methods that allow an objective assessment of the welfare of horses undergoing training. The review gives a brief insight into the history of horse training and handling. It proceeds with an overview of the horse’s learning abilities which is argued to be of paramount importance for effective training. The review then describes a few selected training techniques that are used today, based on negative and positive reinforcement, and discusses parameters from which it could be possible to assess the welfare of the ridden horse. The work concludes with suggestion for future research.
... Horses were trained to touch a target (traffic cone) pointed out by an experimenter using a gestural cue. The task was adapted from Williams et al. [24] and Whistance et al [25]. This task is considered an instrumental task because the horse had to perform an action (touching the cone) under the influence of reinforcement factors (positive reinforcement: food reward) when detecting a particular stimulus (a distal cue given by the experimenter). ...
... withheld has been shown to increase resistance to extinction as compared to withholding all 26 feedback in dogs (Smith & Davis, 2008) but not horses (Williams et al., 2004). Another study 27 found that miniature goats demonstrate accelerated rates of learning when correct responses 28 are immediately followed by a tone before a reward (access to drinking water) and incorrect 29 responses are immediately followed by a different "no reward" tone (Langbein et al., 2007). ...
Article
Clicker training is an animal training technique derived from mechanized laboratory-based studies of animal learning. However, clicker training in the real world often takes place with a human trainer in an environment that is not as well controlled as a laboratory. Attempts to empirically evaluate applied clicker training techniques using testing protocols adapted from laboratory-based studies have been largely unsuccessful in replicating the learning benefits seen in laboratory animals. One proposed explanation for these inconsistencies is that methods used in the scientific evaluation of clicker training, and methods used by trainers in the industry, are not the same. The purpose of the present study was to determine what clicker training is, why people use it, and what methods are considered best practice in the context of applied dog training. A total of 586 dog owners and dog training professionals completed an online questionnaire. The results suggest that individuals do neither restrict the definition of clicker training with training using a clicker device but also include alternative signals such as verbal markers. Overall, individuals reported that clicker training was successful but acknowledged that certain handler skills need to be mastered before a person should begin clicker training with a dog. Survey respondents also showed substantial methodological variety in how they believed clickers should ideally be used. Systematic investigation into these methodological differences, along with empirical assessment of purported benefits, is now required so that evidence-based best practice recommendations in clicker training can be developed. Closer alignment between scientists and practitioners is likely to benefit both groups and the many animals that are currently trained for companion and working roles.
... Clicker training is based on positive reinforcement. During clicker training, a clicker is used as a secondary reinforcer (Williams, Friend, Nevill, & Archer, 2004) that has previously been paired with a primary reinforcer (e.g., food). Thus, a clicker could be consider as a conditioned reinforcer. ...
... There is a need for scientifically based advice for horse owners whose horses have loading difficulties. Horses are easily motivated by food or tidbits (Williams et al., 2004). This may be used when habituating the horse to aversive stimuli. ...
Article
Horses are transported for many reasons, and loading habituation is potentially affecting animal welfare and human safety. Horses are neophobic but may be habituated and trained to perform complex behavioural tasks in novel environments. Before transporting, horses should preferably be habituated to the vehicle and transportation. However, not all horse owners know how this can be done or how to apply common ethological methodology. The aim of our study was to quantify loading problems experienced by horse owners through a survey, compare horse behaviour during the loading procedure at a veterinary clinic with at competition sites and to perform a controlled experiment to investigate the effects of a standardized loading habituation procedure. Part 1 of the study was a horse owner survey. In study 2 we observed horses loaded at competitions and horses loaded at a veterinary clinic to compare two populations with differing habituation levels. In part 3 of the study six 2–3 year-old Icelandic horses were observed during loading habituation and heart rate was measured during these procedures over three consecutive days. Swedish horse owners’ written survey answers (n = 99) showed that 21% experienced problems when loading their horses. Loading at the veterinary clinic took significantly longer (5.8 min) compared to at the competition site (28 s) (P < 0.0001). Horses showed a significantly higher number of evasive behaviours when being loaded at the clinic (16.0 SE ±9.4) compared to the competition site (1.3 SE ±0.5) (P < 0.0001). The Icelandic horses had significantly higher heart rate inside the trailer (73 bpm) compared to before loading (59 bpm) and when outside the trailer again (57 bpm) (P = 0.001). The time taken to load decreased significantly with number of times being loaded during the 3 experimental days (P = 0.001). We conclude that training, in accordance with learning theory, reduce fear when being loaded.
... Surrounding fi sh es may also distract the test subj ects during the conditioning. In order to compensate for such complications, we applied an acoustic secondary reinforcer and tested its potential in enhancing training efficiency (Spence, 1947;Williams et al., 2004). Positive reinforced training relies on a primary, positive reinforcer such as a food reward (Kelleher and Gollub, 1962). ...
Article
The cognitive abilities of animals are challenging to assess. Typically, studies on visual discrimination in fishes are conducted in the laboratory neglecting the fact that acclimation of test subjects to the laboratory environment including artificial light conditions may affect the way in which fishes respond to visual stimuli. The aim of this study was to demonstrate that it is possible to train fishes on visual cues using food rewards, while free-roaming in their own territory under natural conditions. An acoustic secondary reinforcer was also included and its potential contribution to the training success was tested. We trained 27 specimens of the benthic triplefin blenny Tripterygion tripteronotum on either a black or white colored target. Training took on average ten days. In 15 binary choice trials, 23 fish discriminated successfully between rewarded target cue (CS+) and the unrewarded cue (CS-). Furthermore, we discuss the usefulness of acoustic secondary reinforcement in this study. © 2016 by the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists.
... In all of these studies the audible SIGNAL was first paired with a primary reinforcer (either food or water), ostensibly meaning that the comparisons were between a PREDICTOR SIGNAL group and a control group. Of these studies, two were performed with horses (McCall and Burgin, 2002;Williams et al., 2004), one with dwarf goats (Langbein et al., 2007), and the remaining two with companion dogs (Smith and Davis, 2008; unpublished honour's thesis Blandina, n.d.). Only one of these five studies (Langbein et al., 2007) found that using a PREDICTOR SIGNAL resulted in higher rates of task acquisition when compared to using the primary reinforcer alone. ...
Article
This chapter reviews various horse handling methods, including imprint training and positive methods of training, horse transport and issues related to horse slaughter. The review of imprint training studies indicates that there have been mixed positive and negative results, and that the process may interfere with foal bonding with the mare. Brushing and stroking the mare will facilitate approaching and handling the foal. Positive methods of training, such as clicker training, are very helpful for training horses to enter a trailer. Horses can become stressed when they travel alone, and the position facing rear to the direction of travel may be less stressful. Stalls in horse trailers should be designed so that horses can see each other. During transport, horses will drink less water and there should be stops every 16 to 24 h for feed and water. Since the US horse slaughter plants were closed, horse rescue groups are overwhelmed. In Europe, transport laws are not enforced, and one-third of the slaughter horses that arrive in Italy are not fit for transport. Cortisol levels are higher after transport than after stunning at slaughter.
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Dogs play an important role in our society as companions and work partners, and proper training of these dogs is pivotal. For companion dogs, training helps preventing or managing dog behavioral problems—the most frequently cited reason for relinquishing and euthanasia, and it promotes successful dog-human relationships and thus maximizes benefits humans derive from bonding with dogs. For working dogs, training is crucial for them to successfully accomplish their jobs. Dog training methods range widely from those using predominantly aversive stimuli (aversive methods), to those combining aversive and rewarding stimuli (mixed methods) and those focusing on the use of rewards (reward methods). The use of aversive stimuli in training is highly controversial and several veterinary and animal protection organizations have recommended a ban on pinch collars, e-collars and other techniques that induce fear or pain in dogs, on the grounds that such methods compromise dog welfare. At the same time, training methods based on the use of rewards are claimed to be more humane and equally or more effective than aversive or mixed methods. This important discussion, however, has not always been based in solid scientific evidence. Although there is growing scientific evidence that training with aversive stimuli has a negative impact on dog welfare, the scientific literature on the efficacy and efficiency of the different methodologies is scarce and inconsistent. Hence, the goal of the current study is to investigate the efficacy and efficiency of different dog training methods. To that end, we will apply different dog training methods in a population of working dogs and evaluate the outcome after a period of training. The use of working dogs will allow for a rigorous experimental design and control, with randomization of treatments. Military (n = 10) and police (n = 20) dogs will be pseudo-randomly allocated to two groups. One group will be trained to perform a set of tasks (food refusal, interrupted recall, dumbbell retrieval and placing items in a basket) using reward methods and the other group will be trained for the same tasks using mixed methods. Later, the dogs will perform a standardized test where they will be required to perform the trained behaviors. The reliability of the behaviors and the time taken to learn them will be assessed in order to evaluate the efficacy and efficiency, respectively, of the different training methods. This study will be performed in collaboration with the Portuguese Army and with the Portuguese Public Security Police (PSP) and integrated with their dog training programs.
Article
The primary purpose of this study was to characterize operant learning performance of young foals. For each of 26 foals, aged 6 to 20 weeks, learning performance was quantitatively evaluated in a single brief training trial using a standard operant conditioning task and paradigm analogous to those common to training and management of domestic horses, popularly referred to as “target training.” With no human interaction in the interim, retention of the learning was evaluated seven to 26 days after the initial training trial. All 26 foals demonstrated learning in this operant paradigm. In this operant paradigm, learning was as efficient in the foals of 6 weeks to 3 months of age (n = 14) as foals of 3 to 5 months of age (n = 12). Some evidence was found for more efficient learning in female (n = 13) than in male foals (n = 13), as well as in certain sire lines. Seventeen of the 26 foals (65%) met the criterion for retention. Differences in the proportions of males and females and of younger and older foals that met this criterion were not significant (Fisher’s Exact Test). This work demonstrates the ability of young foals to efficiently learn and to retain an operant task.
Article
This study measured the responses of dogs to signals delivered via hand and voice signals. The study sought to determine whether dogs would display differential stimulus control when switching from a compound stimulus (auditory-visual) cue to presentation of only one of its elements. Twelve dogs performed a target behavior in response to a two-element compound stimulus composed of a hand (visual modality) signal and a voice (auditory modality) signal. The mean percent correct responses to the visual element (M = 56.5, SD = 20.74) and the auditory element (M = 67.5, SD = 21.57) were both significantly lower than the 85% correct for the compound stimulus, p < 0.017. There was also evidence of a preference for one of the elements of the compound stimulus. The mean percent correct for the more favoured element (M = 77.25, SD = 12.53) was significantly higher than for the less favoured element (M = 46.75, SD = 17.2), p < 0.001. The identity of the favoured element was not consistent across the animals with 75% preferring the auditory element and 25% the visual element. This study contributes to an understanding of factors related to the stimulus control of learned behaviors. The differential control of behavior by alternative cues has implications for the training of assistance or service and other working animals with multiple cues. The results would strongly suggest that training with a compound stimulus is not appropriate if only elements of the compound stimulus are to be subsequently used.
Article
Clicker training has been a popular form of training for decades and is utilized in zoos, aquariums and shelters. Only a handful of studies have investigated the efficacy of the clicker training method itself despite its widespread popularity. In the first study we used 30 shelter puppies, naïve to training, that were split into three different groups: Clicker + primary reinforcement, vocal praise + primary reinforcement and primary reinforcement alone. Each puppy was then trained to perform a “stay” command using seven shaping approximation steps. Puppies had 50 trials to get as far as they could in the shaping plan. We found that puppies in the primary reinforcement alone group significantly out preformed puppies in the clicker + primary reinforcement group (p = 0.004). A second experiment was conducted to see if the type of behavior trained would influence the efficacy of clicker use. For the second experiment we trained a wave, a behavior that required multiple topographical steps. We used 60 shelter puppies, naïve to training, and split them into the same three groups (clicker + primary reinforcement, vocal praise + primary reinforcement and primary reinforcement alone). No significant differences were found between conditions (p > 0.05) when training the wave behavior. These results suggest that different reinforcement strategies may be more or less effective depending on the type of behavior trained, however we did not find evidence that the addition of a clicker or verbal cue enhanced training performance in either condition compared to using primary reinforcement alone. More research is needed to determine if clickers may have other benefits beyond basic training progression.
Article
Forty-eight horses were used to examine equine utilization of a secondary (learned) reinforcement signal. Phases I and II of the study investigated whether the secondary reinforcer could prolong extinction of a learned task. Phase III utilized the secondary reinforcer to train the horse to perform a new task. Horses were paired by age, sex and breed. All horses were taught to push a lever to obtain a feed reward. One horse of each pair served as the control (CON, feed reward only, no secondary reinforcement) and the other was given a feed reward paired with an auditory buzzer as a secondary reinforcer (SR). In phase I, horses were given 30 trials of continuous reinforcement daily for 3 days. For SR horses, the feed reward was delivered approximately 1s after the buzzer sounded. On days 4 and 5, extinction trials occurred in which horses did not receive any feed reward for pushing the lever, but the buzzer was still delivered to SR horses. Extinction of the learned response was defined as 5min with no lever press. Responses and time to extinction were recorded for each horse. After 2 days of rest the horses were retrained to the lever and this procedure was repeated with the feed reward delivered simultaneously with 3–4s of the SR (phase II). In phase III horses were given 40 reinforcements on a variable ratio 5 reinforcement schedule for 3 days. On days 18 and 19, the lever was removed and the horses were shaped for 30min daily to a new task (push a flap) using the SR. Numbers of reinforcements and responses were recorded for each horse. Data from CON and SR horses in all phases of the study were compared utilizing a paired t-test. During phases I and II, no differences were found in responses (P>0.9, P>0.3, respectively) or in time to extinction (P>0.3, P>0.7, respectively). In phase III, SR horses had more reinforcements during shaping on day 18 than CON horses (mean=28.0 and 11.8, respectively, S.E.D.=5.4, P
Article
This series of studies investigated horses' ability to learn the concept of sameness under several different conditions. Before experimentation began, three horses were shaped to touch individually presented stimuli with their muzzles, and then to make two responses to two matching cards from an array of three. A modified version of the identity matching-to-sample (IMTS) procedure was used to present stimuli in a variety of configural arrangements on a barn wall (Experiment 1 and Experiment 2), and on a flat panel mounted to a barn door (Experiment 3). The task in each experiment was to select the two stimulus cards that were the same (either circles or Xs) and to avoid the nonmatching stimulus card (either a star or a square). In Experiment 1, the mean accuracy rate for selecting the matching alternatives was 74%. The horses' accuracy levels reached a mean level of 83% during Experiment 2, in which they received additional trials and an intermittent secondary reinforcement schedule. In Experiment 3, when the stimuli were moved further apart from each other within arrangements and were presented on a novel background, the mean accuracy rate was 73%. These data demonstrate that horses can learn complex discrimination problems involving the concept of sameness, and that they are able to generalize this learning to a novel stimulus presentation situation. These results also suggest that a relational discrimination test may be useful for assessing horses' learning ability and the level of training appropriate for individual horses.
Article
Attempted to determine the effect of increasing the duration of a cue, previously paired with a consummatory response, on subsequent instrumental behavior. 16 naive female hooded rats were trained to run an alley maze to obtain sucrose as a reinforcement, accompanied by the presentation of a tone. During testing, all Ss were given an additional tone presentation on certain trials just before the start-box door was opened. 3 durations of start-box tone were presented: .5, 5, and 15 sec.; and trials with no start-box tone were used as a control condition. Starting speeds during testing were found to increase monotonically with the length of tone presentations. The various durations of tone had no significant effect on the running speeds, but the running responses were faster for the tone as compared to the no-tone trials. Results are interpreted as offering support for interpretations which consider the concepts of secondary reinforcement and frustration to be operationally identical. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Determined the effects of manipulating secondary reinforcing conditions on nonreinforced acquisition trials during partial reinforcement. In 2 experiments 100% and 2 50% reinforced groups were used. The 50% groups were differentiated on the basis of whether a secondary reinforcer was present or absent on nonreinforced trials. In Exp. I 21 naive female albino Sprague-Dawley rats were extinguished under the uniform condition of no magazine cycle, while in Exp. II with 27 Ss, the magazine cycled on the same percentage of trails in extinction as it had during acquisition. Results demonstrated that the group which had not experienced the magazine cycle on nonreinforced trials was more resistant to extinction than either of the other 2 groups which were not different from each other. Results were discussed in relation to E. J. Capald's sequential hypothesis of instrumental learning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
The effect of an uninformative tone on the bar-pressing behaviour of rats was studied to see whether a secondary reinforcer had any role beyond that of signal of a forthcoming reward. A tone was sounded for 1 sec. immediately following each bar press by the experimental group. After a delay, 50 per cent of bar presses were followed by a food pellet, which was preceded by a second occurrence of the tone. There was a control group which received the tone only before food and another which received the tone only after response. The experimental group performed at the same level as the group which had tone before food only. It was concluded that a stimulus is not necessarily prevented from acquiring secondary reinforcement value by being uninformative with respect to the outcome of a response.
Article
Using a set of six baboons (Papio cynocephalus), we conducted a series of seven experiments designed to evaluate the potentially aversive character of a 60 Hz electric field (EF). Initially, the subjects were trained, using food rewards as the reinforcer, to respond only when a cue light was illuminated. Next, an EF was presented along with the cue light; responses produced delivery of a food pellet and turned off both the cue light and the EF. Then, stimulus and reward conditions were varied. We determined that (1) presence of a strong EF does not affect operant responding for food rewards, (2) subjects will not respond at normal rates when the only reinforcer is termination of a strong EF, (3) presence of a strong EF can serve as a discriminative stimulus, (4) presence of a strong EF does not affect extinction of an appetite-motivated task, and (5) presentation of an EF can become a secondary reinforcer. The pattern of results was consistent across all experiments, suggesting that an EF of as much 65 kV/m is not aversive to nonhuman primates. Separately, we demonstrated that the average EF detection threshold for baboons is 12 kV/m. Thus, EF exposure at intensities well above the detection threshold and at species-scaled EF strengths greater than those found environmentally does not appear to be aversive. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Article
The role of various neurotransmitter systems in the brain in extinction behavior is examined. An attempt is made to suggest psychological mechanisms (such as attention, secondary reinforcement or internal inhibition) by which the neurotransmitter systems or drugs act to produce the observed alteration in extinction behavior. The putative neurotransmitters acetylcholine, noradrenaline, dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and the peptides are reviewed, as are pharmacological agents such as the benzodiazepines, the barbiturates, the psychodelics, the neuroleptics, the psychomotor stimulants and cannabinoids. Other treatments and factors are considered such as peripheral hormones and the adrenal-pituitary axis. It is suggested that the noradrenergic system may be involved in the expression of extinction behavior by a role in selective attention, the dopamine system via an involvement with secondary reinforcement, the cholinergic system by a mechanism of response inhibition and the barbiturates and benzodiazepines by a block of nonreward.
Article
Rats learned to run to the correct arm of a Y-maze. Correct responses were reinforced with morphine injection paired with a conditional tone stimulus. After the maze response was well established, extinction trials were run. During extinction half of the animals received neither morphine nor tone as a consequence of a correct response, while the other half received the tone but no morphine. Rats receiving the tone during extinction required significantly more trials to reach the extinction criteria than rats not receiving tone presentations. Extinction with the tone also facilitated relearning of the maze response. The results support the view that morphone is a potent reinforcer, and that stimuli paired with morphine administration acquire the properties of a secondary reinforcer.
Article
Three Cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) took part in an experiment on visual learning set in an automatic apparatus. Each new visual discrimination problem was solved using a visual secondary reinforcer consisting of a white line. If the monkey chose the correct stimulus (by touching it), the white line appeared over the correct stimulus. Primary food reward was delivered only after a new problem was solved to a criterion, and the problem was then replaced by a new one. Thus, within-problem learning did not rely on primary reinforcement but on the visual secondary reinforcer. The animals were trained preoperatively in visual learning set with this procedure and were assessed postoperatively for their ability to learn new visual discriminations with the same procedure. Bilateral amygdalectomy did not significantly impair the animals' learning ability in this task. Learning remained unimpaired when transection of the uncinate fascicle and of the fornix was added to amygdalectomy. The effect of bilateral amygdalectomy in this task was much less severe than in a similar task we previously studied, with auditory secondary reinforcers. The results show that the involvement of the amygdala in processes of secondary reinforcement depends on the sensory properties of the secondary reinforcer. From these and other recent results, we conclude that the sensory attributes of a reinforcer are easily associated with a discriminative stimulus when they are in the same modality and same spatial location as the discriminative stimulus and that this sensory-sensory association is independent of the amygdala.
Article
Nine monkeys in 3 groups took part in an experiment on visual discrimination learning set in an automatic apparatus. Each new visual discrimination problem was solved using auditory secondary reinforcers. Primary food reinforcement was delivered only after a new problem had been solved to a criterion, and the problem was then replaced by a new one; thus, within-problem learning relied purely on secondary and not on primary reinforcement, but the secondary reinforcers were associated with primary reinforcement. Bilateral amygdalectomy severely retarded within-problem learning. Disconnection of the amygdala from auditory input, by crossed unilateral lesions of amygdala and of auditory cortex combined with forebrain commissurotomy, had a similar effect to that of bilateral amygdalectomy. Disconnection of the amygdala from visual association cortex left learning unimpaired. Thus, for normal performance in this task, interaction of the amygdala with the sensory modality of the secondary reinforcer was essential, but interaction of the amygdala with the sensory modality of the discriminative stimuli was not necessary. It was concluded that the amygdala is involved in associating stimuli with the primary reinforcing attributes of food reward, and not with its other attributes.
Article
Making a light-increment dependent upon an instrumental response has been shown to increase the probability of occurrence of that response. The light wo~ild [hen fall into the category of the class of stimuli capable of altering response frequency or probability known as primary reinforcers. The original studies of light as a primary reinforcer were published by Kish (1955) and Hurwitz ( 1956). The validity of light-increment as a true primary reinforcer is still subject to question, although studies by Forgays and Levin (1961) and Berlyne, et al. (1964) have provided strong support for the authenticity of performance changes with light as the reward. In view of these results it appears that using light as the "neutral" stimulus in studies of secondary reinforcement would not be advisable. Light does not appear to be neutral at all but, rather, reinforcing in its own right. Although the original work on the effeccs of light-increment was published over 10 yr. ago, secondary reinforcement studies continue to pair lights with various other primary reinforcers (e.g., Miller & Weidner, 1965; Sidowski, Kass, & Wilson, 1965; Longscreth, 1966). More recent experiments have employed a measure of operant response level for light as a control for the intrinsic effects of lighc reinforcement. However, any inceractions with other variables are f~~nctions of the complex relationship between the primary light-reinforcement and another primary reinforcer such as food. The obtained results can not be compared with observations made in connection with a "real" ne~itral stimulus. At the present it appears necessary to repeat much of the previous research in order to observe the effects of a secondary reinforcer inc complicated by other sources of influence.
Article
The effects of pimozide (1.0 mg/kg), a DA receptor blocker, on the capacity of environmental stimuli to acquire secondary reinforcing properties was investigated using two different paradigms. In the first experiment rats pretreated with either pimozide or its vehicle, were exposed to light-food pairings. When tested under drug-free extinction conditions, these animals approached the light cue significantly more frequently than did control animals who never had the cue associated with food during training. No differences in approach behavior were observed between the pimozide and vehicle groups that received the light-food pairings. The second experiment employed a place preference paradigm where animals were confined in distinctive compartments under reinforced (S+) or nonreinforced (S-) conditions. Pimozide and vehicle treated animals, when tested drug-free and given unrestricted access to both chambers under extinction conditions, spent comparable amounts of time in the S+ chamber relative to vehicle subjects that had never received food in either chamber. The results from these two studies indicate that an animal's ability to code relevant environmental information and to use this encoded information to guide and direct food seeking behavior is relatively independent of dopaminergic activity. The results also have significance for any theory which assumes that dopamine mediates reward processes.
Article
Three cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) were trained preoperatively in visual discrimination learning for an auditory secondary reinforcer. Each new discrimination problem was solved on the basis of the secondary reinforcer, and primary reinforcement (food reward) was given only after a new problem had been solved. The animals learned 50 new problems in each daily session and it was therefore possible to assess accurately their average rate of learning new discrimination problems in this procedure. After the learning rate had stabilized preoperatively the animals were operated upon to transect the uncinate fascicle, the cortico-cortical pathway from visual association cortex in the temporal lobe to prefrontal cortex. The animals' learning rate was unchanged after uncinate fascicle section. A previous experiment has shown that visual learning for an auditory secondary reinforcer is unaffected by disconnection of visual association cortex from the amygdala and the fornix. Taken together, this negative evidence points strongly to the conclusion that visual learning for an auditory secondary reinforcer depends upon interaction of temporal lobe visual association cortex with the corpus striatum, since other possibilities have been excluded.
Article
Using a set of six baboons (Papio cynocephalus), we conducted a series of seven experiments designed to evaluate the potentially aversive character of a 60 Hz electric field (EF). Initially, the subjects were trained, using food rewards as the reinforcer, to respond only when a cue light was illuminated. Next, an EF was presented along with the cue light; responses produced delivery of a food pellet and turned off both the cue light and the EF. Then, stimulus and reward conditions were varied. We determined that 1) presence of a strong EF does not affect operant responding for food rewards, 2) subjects will not respond at normal rates when the only reinforcer is termination of a strong EF, 3) presence of a strong EF can serve as a discriminative stimulus, 4) presence of a strong EF does not affect extinction of an appetite-motivated task, and 5) presentation of an EF can become a secondary reinforcer. The pattern of results was consistent across all experiments, suggesting that an EF of as much 65 kV/m is not aversive to nonhuman primates. Separately, we demonstrated that the average EF detection threshold for baboons in 12 kV/m. Thus, EF exposure at intensities well above the detection threshold and at species-scaled EF strengths greater than those found environmentally does not appear to be aversive.
Article
Aspiration lesions of the amygdala were found previously to produce a severe impairment in visual discrimination learning for auditory secondary reinforcement in rhesus monkeys (Gaffan and Harrison, 1987). To determine whether excitotoxic amygdala lesions would also produce this effect, we trained four naive rhesus monkeys on the same task. The monkeys were required to learn 40 new visual discrimination problems per session in a situation in which visual choices were guided by an auditory secondary reinforcer that had been previously associated with food reward. Bilateral excitotoxic lesions of the amygdala had no effect on the rate of learning visual discrimination problems for auditory secondary reinforcement. We also tested the amygdalectomized monkeys on a reinforcer devaluation task and compared their performance with a group of three normal monkeys. The monkeys first learned to discriminate 60 pairs of objects, baited with two different food rewards. Each of the food rewards was then devalued by selective satiation in two separate experimental sessions. Normal controls tended to avoid displacing objects that covered the devalued food to a significantly greater degree than did the amygdalectomized monkeys, indicating that the excitotoxic amygdala damage interfered with reinforcer devaluation effects. Our results are consistent with the idea that the amygdala is necessary for learning the association between stimuli and the value of particular food rewards; however, the amygdala is not necessary for maintaining the value of secondary reinforcers, once they have been learned.
Article
It has been hypothesized that environmental stimuli previously paired with ethanol consumption play a role in excessive ethanol intake. This study examined the ability of orally self-administered ethanol to establish a tone-light stimulus complex as a conditioned reinforcer (CSR). Male Long-Evans rats were trained to orally self-administer 10% ethanol (10E) using the sucrose-substitution procedure. During training, a tone-light stimulus complex was paired with ethanol presentation in a stimulus complex paired (SC-paired) group but not in a control group. Responding during extinction in the presence and absence of the stimulus complex was then examined. Following the initiation of ethanol self-administration, 10E maintained greater responding in the SC-paired group compared to the control group. When the stimulus complex was presented contingent on responding during extinction, the rate of extinction was slightly attenuated in the SC-paired group but not in the control group. The altered rate of extinction in the SC-paired group was characterized by: 1) a slight decrease in total session responding over successive days of extinction and 2) a transient attenuation of extinction burst response rate during the first extinction session. These data suggest the stimulus complex could function as a weak CS(R), but overall its ability to maintain lever pressing was minimal.
Clicker Training for Your Horse
  • A Kurland
Kurland, A., 1998. Clicker Training for Your Horse. Sunshine Books Inc., Waltham, MA.
Amygdalaectomy and disconnection in visual learning for auditory secondary reinforcement in monkeys
  • Gaffon