Behaviour 2019
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Lack of Reinforcement is Hard to "Bear": Assessing Affect in Grizzy Bears Using a Judgment Bias Task
Laura M. Bernstein-Kurtycz1,2, Jennifer Vonk3, Michael Zinter1, Joseph M. Carroscia1, Diana C. Koester1,2, Rebecca J. Snyder4, Mark A. Willis2, Kristen E. Lukas1,2. 1Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Cleveland, OH, United States; 2Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, United States; 3Oakland University, Rochester, MI, United States; 4Oklahoma City Zoo, Oklahoma City, OK, United States

Cognitive bias testing reveals underlying affect by investigating changes in optimism and pessimism. This methodology is relatively new to zoos but may permit assessment of positive welfare in animals that have few validated positive welfare indicators, such as bears. Our goal was to validate a novel judgment bias test for assessing welfare in grizzly bears, using a touchscreen. After training the bears on a conditional discrimination, we compared responses to an ambiguous stimulus in a 2X2 nested design involving four experimental conditions representing presence or absence of a behind-the-scenes tour and presence or absence of a keeper training session with food reinforcement. We recorded bears’ behavior during the conditions as a measure of convergent validity. Testing revealed optimism during the food reinforcement conditions in one bear. A trend towards more frustration behaviors was observed during the no food reinforcement conditions. This is the first experimental demonstration of brown bears using a touchscreen and performing a conditional discrimination. This method of assessing underlying affect shows promise for the future.