Research Topic

Captive Animal Behavior: Individual Differences in Learning and Cognition, and Implications on Animal Welfare

About this Research Topic

In order to provide adequate welfare for animals in captivity, it is important to consider not only the needs of the group, but also those of the individual. Individual differences in learning and cognitive functioning are of particular importance, as they can help to assess to what degree captive animals are able to adapt and interact with new environments. In the last decades, individual differences in learning and cognition have been so far studied empirically and systematically across a wide range of taxa, but the underlying factors that can cause this variation, as well as its potential welfare consequences, are still debated. While ultimate factors tend to play a minor role in explaining behavioral variation in captive animals, a variety of proximate factors could affect individual variation in performance in learning and cognitive tasks. These factors include a variety of genetic and environmental components, ranging from breed or feeding type, to housing conditions (single vs group housed) to idiosyncrasies of different research sites.

While concerns about general inter-individual behavioral differences (e.g. personality) in captive animals have received considerable attention in recent years, to date only a few studies have addressed factors affecting inter-individual variation in learning and cognition. The objective of the Research Topic is to promote interdisciplinary research approaches from developmental psychology to applied ethology addressing this variation in animals under human care, with special focus on farm, companion and zoo animals.

Therefore, we invite researchers to submit their work on the following themes:
- To present state of the art research that seeks to link genetic and/or environmental factors to variation in learning and cognition
- To link variation in learning and cognition to parameters associated with animal welfare
- To highlight future perspectives and pinpoint shortcomings and limitations in the interpretation of the available data in this research area
- To provide perspectives and concepts on how this variation should be taken into account for husbandry design and management of animals in captivity

Original research and Review articles, as well as Opinion and Perspective papers, on the topic of individual variation in learning and cognition in captive animals are invited to be submitted. We welcome results supporting the null hypothesis, as the strength and direction of potential associations between specific factors and performance in learning and cognitive tasks is still under discussion and could be influenced by task design and how associated factors are measured.


Keywords: behavioural flexibility, behavioural variation, cognition, genetics, personality


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

In order to provide adequate welfare for animals in captivity, it is important to consider not only the needs of the group, but also those of the individual. Individual differences in learning and cognitive functioning are of particular importance, as they can help to assess to what degree captive animals are able to adapt and interact with new environments. In the last decades, individual differences in learning and cognition have been so far studied empirically and systematically across a wide range of taxa, but the underlying factors that can cause this variation, as well as its potential welfare consequences, are still debated. While ultimate factors tend to play a minor role in explaining behavioral variation in captive animals, a variety of proximate factors could affect individual variation in performance in learning and cognitive tasks. These factors include a variety of genetic and environmental components, ranging from breed or feeding type, to housing conditions (single vs group housed) to idiosyncrasies of different research sites.

While concerns about general inter-individual behavioral differences (e.g. personality) in captive animals have received considerable attention in recent years, to date only a few studies have addressed factors affecting inter-individual variation in learning and cognition. The objective of the Research Topic is to promote interdisciplinary research approaches from developmental psychology to applied ethology addressing this variation in animals under human care, with special focus on farm, companion and zoo animals.

Therefore, we invite researchers to submit their work on the following themes:
- To present state of the art research that seeks to link genetic and/or environmental factors to variation in learning and cognition
- To link variation in learning and cognition to parameters associated with animal welfare
- To highlight future perspectives and pinpoint shortcomings and limitations in the interpretation of the available data in this research area
- To provide perspectives and concepts on how this variation should be taken into account for husbandry design and management of animals in captivity

Original research and Review articles, as well as Opinion and Perspective papers, on the topic of individual variation in learning and cognition in captive animals are invited to be submitted. We welcome results supporting the null hypothesis, as the strength and direction of potential associations between specific factors and performance in learning and cognitive tasks is still under discussion and could be influenced by task design and how associated factors are measured.


Keywords: behavioural flexibility, behavioural variation, cognition, genetics, personality


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

02 September 2021 Abstract
31 March 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

02 September 2021 Abstract
31 March 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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