Validating a new cognitive proxy measure of animals’ affective state
Director of Studies: Dr Carole Fureix
Second Supervisor: Dr Ben Brilot
Third Supervisor: Professor Mike Mendl, University of Bristol
Accurate measurement of animal welfare is essential in order to correctly assess the wellbeing of animals managed in different ways. Because welfare heavily depends on how animals feel, we need to develop welfare measures that capture the animal’s affective state valence [i.e. is that a positive or a negative state]. Measures that do so are the affect-related cognitive judgements of ambiguity, since people and animals in negative affective states appear to judge ambiguous stimuli more pessimistically than their counterparts in more positive affective states. Existing cognitive measures in animals also have major limitations, however, such as requiring a labour-intensive training regime. Working with horses and dogs as subjects, this project aims to validate a novel cognitive proxy measure of animal affect, which will capture the valence of the animal’s affective state while reducing the need for labour-intensive animal training. You will be trained in animal handling, behaviour quantification and welfare assessment, cognition, and develop competence sought in any scientific career paths, such as advanced statistical analysis, connecting with industry, conference presentations and scientific writing, involvement in project supervision, and experience of public engagement.