Abstract # 66:

Scheduled for Friday, June 20, 2008 10:30 AM-10:40 AM: Session 7 (Meeting Room 2DEF) Oral Presentation

Temperament Predicts Training Success in Rhesus Macaques (Macaca mulatta)

A. W. Clay1,2,3, M. A. Bloomsmith1,2, M. J. Marr1 and T. L. Maple1
1Center for Conservation and Behavior, School of Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology, 654 Cherry Street, Atlanta, GA 30332-0170, USA, 2Yerkes National Primate Research Center, 3Zoo Atlanta
     Operant conditioning using positive reinforcement has been used extensively in the management of nonhuman primates in zoological and laboratory settings. Based on a large body of previous research demonstrating the utility of such techniques in reducing stress, abnormal behavior, and aggression, this research project was intended to test the usefulness of habituation and counter-conditioning techniques in reducing the fear-responses of 18 singly-housed male rhesus macaques living in the laboratory environment. Additionally, we investigated temperament as it related to training success for 12 of these animals, predicting that more inhibited animals would also be slower learners. Initial temperament assessments, performed by measuring each animal’s response to a novel object, were found to predict the relative ability of subjects to later acquire trained behaviors as measured by the number of standardized training steps each animal was able to advance through within a given duration of time. A Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test indicated that rank order for temperament (from most to least inhibited) was statistically similar to rank order for speed of learning (from slowest to fastest) [z=-0.316, p=0.75]. These results suggest that, in accordance with our predictions, more inhibited subjects learned less. Implications of the findings are that when subjects are being chosen for training projects or when time is limited, using brief temperament tests to select less inhibited animals may be worthwhile.