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The discrimination-learning task determines the kind of frustration-related behaviours in laying hens (Gallus gallus domesticus)

By Franziska Kuhne, Annika F. C. Sauerbrey, Silke Adler

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Although, the incidence of frustration-related behaviours is influenced by frustration-provoking social and environmental conflicts, the occurrence of particular frustration-related behaviours associated with discriminatory learning remains controversial. For example, the assumption that frustration is associated with stress and stress may interfere with learning and memory is well established, but if the incidence of particular frustration-related behaviours correlates with learning demands of different discrimination tasks remains hard to analyse. To determine if frustration-related behaviours of laying hens correlate with learning behaviour, the birds were tested within three different discrimination tasks (acquisition, reversal, and extinction). Of additional interest was the question if particular frustration-related behaviours, such as redirected pecking and displacement preening, are continuous behavioural responses across different learning tasks. The behavioural data were analysed using repeated measures analysis of variance of SPSS 20®. Performance on the different discrimination tasks was positively and negatively correlated to a particular frustration-related behaviour. Intensified vocalisation (F=7.8, P=0.003), preening (F=17.3, P=0.003), and pacing (F=6.7, P=0.014) increased learning success during extinction, whereas redirected pecking (F=52.9, P=0.000) decreased learning success during all discrimination tasks. There was a huge variation in the number of hens which have shown particular frustration-related behaviours during the tasks. Different discrimination-learning tasks appear to call upon the occurrence of frustration-related behaviours to a different extent. The frequency and duration of particular species-typical frustration-related behaviours differs within discriminatory learning and among individuals. The findings suggest continuing advances in our understanding of the link between emotional and motivational demands and frustration-related behaviours in animals.

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 148
Issue 3
Pages 192-200
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2013.09.003
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  2. Frustration
  3. visual discrimination