Date of Award

Summer 8-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Committee Chair

Dr. Sheree Watson

Committee Chair Department

Psychology

Committee Member 2

Dr. Stan Kuczaj

Committee Member 2 Department

Psychology

Committee Member 3

Dr. Virgil Zeigler-Hill

Committee Member 3 Department

Psychology

Committee Member 4

Dr. Tammy Greer

Committee Member 4 Department

Psychology

Committee Member 5

Dr. John Koeppel

Abstract

Recently the study of animal personality has become an important and credible topic of research and a number of studies have revealed personality traits in a variety of species. The consideration of individual animal personality traits is important for animal management and welfare. For example, ensuring inter-individual compatibility in group housing animals may serve to ensure the safety of the whole group. To date, no formal research has been conducted on whether the assessment of individual personality traits could be used as a tool for individualizing environmental enrichment interventions. The goal of environmental enrichment is to increase the rate of species-typical behaviors in captive animals. Prior research has, for the most part, implemented enrichment strategies genetically, exposing all animals to the same intervention (de Azevedo, et al., 2007). However, individual animals have unique problems or preferences, and could benefit from enrichment plans tailored specifically for them. Testing multiple enrichment options with all individuals of a large group would be very time-consuming and cost-prohibitive. A possible solution is to assess the different personality traits within the group of animals, and provide various enrichment interventions specific to these individual differences. Thus, the current study examined whether certain enrichment options are more effective for particular personality traits within a prosimian species. Personality traits often Garnett's bushbabies were assessed and the subjects were categorized as either high or low on five personality factors: Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. All ten subjects were exposed to five different environmental enrichment interventions. The effectiveness of each enrichment intervention was assessed by examining stereotypic behaviors before and after exposure to the enrichment interventions. All five enrichment interventions generally improved animal welfare by increasing frequency of species-typical behavior across the subjects. In addition, some of the enrichment interventions differentially benefited the subjects based on their individual personality traits. For example, following being housed with an unfamiliar conspecific, highly agreeable (more affiliative and friendly) subjects significantly decreased their maladaptive behaviors. Overall, this study suggests that individualized plans of enrichment related to personality differences are beneficial to a prosimian species.

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