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Behavioral Research Blog

5 examples of research on adolescence

Sep 2, 2014 11:30:00 AM

A couple of months ago, the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence attracted many researchers from all over the world, all interested in adolescent behavior. On this blog, we’ve dedicated a number of posts to recent projects (educational research, research on adolescence). Interested? Check out five examples below!

1) Adolescent Motherhood – observing mother-infant behavior

Current research from Prof. Cristina Riva Crugnola, University of Milano-Bicocca tells us that adolescent mothers as well as their babies (vs. adult mother and infant interactions) spent more time in negative engagement, meaning that the mothers showed more pushy behaviors towards the infant, even hostility. The infant also showed more negative behaviors, such as protesting with expressions of anger and crying. Riva Crugnola and colleagues state that it is important to train skills and competence in adolescent mother-infant interaction by setting up prevention programs. Young mothers should be supported in learning how to be a mother and regulating emotions (in particular, negative ones). Also, timing is everything - the researchers explain that it is also important to start preventive intervention in the first months of life.

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Topics: The Observer XT, video observation, classroom observation software, adolescent behavior

What a horse likes to eat: how to test dietary preferences

Aug 25, 2014 2:00:00 PM

When humans are given a choice of food, we usually go for the best-tasting option. Animals also have a preference in which food they eat, although theirs is not based on taste necessarily, but on nutritional value. This choice feeding can be used to learn more about an animal’s nutritional needs and dietary preferences. However, in animals such as horses, there is a long gut transit time, which means that the horse may have difficulty making the connection between which chosen food has which nutritional consequence. So what can be done about this? Redgate and colleagues looked into the addition of a monadic phase (a phase in which only one food was offered at a time instead of all of the options) to choice testing. For this study, researchers wanted to see how a monadic training phase would impact the horse’s choice of food and if voluntary intake and feeding behavior would be influenced if the energy content was constant, but the macronutrient diet was different.

The experiment

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Topics: The Observer XT, horses, feeding behavior,

Through the looking glass: the accuracy of measuring fish aggression by using mirror tests

Aug 18, 2014 9:00:00 AM

When we look into a mirror, we see a reflection of ourselves. As humans, we are aware that this is only a reflection and not actually another living person. However, very few animal species are able to acknowledge that their reflection is not another one of their species which could pose a threat to them. Capuchin monkeys, grey parrots, and elephants are among the few that are able to recognize their mirror image. A majority of animal species, including fish, treat the image in the mirror as a conspecific. As a result, it would make sense that a mirror test could be a good indicator of aggression, especially in fish. However, Valentina Balzarini and colleagues questioned this widespread method, noting recent studies which had shown that hormonal and gene expression responses differed between the fish being exposed to a conspecific or a reflection of itself.

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Topics: The Observer XT, fish

The relationship between food scarcity and caching in fox squirrels

Aug 12, 2014 12:00:00 PM

We’ve all seen squirrels carrying acorns around in their mouths and burying them in the ground. This is a way to hoard food, and most squirrels use a strategy called scatter-hoarding. Instead of storing all of their excess food in one spot for easy access later, squirrels spread their food around in so many different caches that it is hard to believe they could find all of the spots again later. However, a squirrel has a choice to make when it comes across a food item – will it cache it and save it for later or will the squirrel eat it right there? Several factors play into this, such as quality, perishability, and scarcity. Mikel Delgado et al. studied how these different factors had an impact on the food-storing decisions of adult fox squirrels.

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Topics: The Observer XT, foraging behavior

STEM learning between caregiver and child in a museum

Aug 7, 2014 12:00:00 PM

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Why? Without realizing it ourselves, our choices in the future can be determined by our pasts and the interests that were fostered when we were children. This can be important especially in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects and fields because there are not enough people pursuing careers and opportunities in these fields to meet the demands. Catherine Haden and colleagues studied how effective a facilitated educational program in a children’s museum was for promoting conversations between caregiver and child and teaching the child about STEM subjects.

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Topics: The Observer XT, video observation, parent-child interaction

How wild cavies and domesticated guinea pigs differ

Aug 5, 2014 4:00:00 PM

Domestication has a considerable effect on the behavior of animals, which is not very surprising. The dramatic change in their environment and provision of food and shelter alter the need for behaviors such as exploration and social behaviors. But what exactly is the difference?

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Topics: The Observer XT, social behavior research, guinea pigs, stress research

The impact of visitor access in a shelter on the welfare of shelter dogs

Jul 31, 2014 9:37:00 AM

If you’ve ever been to a shelter to adopt a dog, you know that when you walk into the holding area, the dogs can get very noisy. At the introduction of a stranger to the room their kennels are in, the dogs will start barking, which encourages the other dogs around them to bark as well. Barking has been documented as a stressor for dog, as have repetitive behavior and lots of movement. All of these behaviors seem to increase by the access of visitors to the kennel area. Lynn Hewison and colleagues decided to investigate if preventing visitor access to the dogs could lower stress levels and therefore increase general welfare of the animals.

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Topics: The Observer XT, animal-human interaction, dogs, coding schemes, animal welfare, stress research

Adolescent Motherhood – observing mother-infant behavior

Jul 25, 2014 10:00:00 AM

Teenagers have the perfect life, right? Living at mom and dad’s, eating without worrying about gaining weight, and relaxing all the way through high school. Unfortunately, not all adolescents have an easy-peasy life. Some have to study to achieve good grades and others have to deal with grownup problems on top of dealing with the emotional ups and downs of adolescence. What about teenage moms? Next to dealing with a newborn, adolescent mothers are tackling their transition to adulthood (taking more distance from parental figures) and the transition to parenthood (the nurturing of an infant and caring for his or her physical and emotional needs). This is called the double risk for mother and infant, inherent in adolescent motherhood. (Riva Crugnola et al. 2014)

Double risk – invest in a solution

Current research from Prof. Cristina Riva Crugnola, University of Milano-Bicocca tells us that adolescent mothers as well as their babies (vs. adult mother and infant interactions) spent more time in negative engagement, meaning that the mothers showed more pushy behaviors towards the infant, even hostility. The infant also showed more negative behaviors, such as protesting with expressions of anger and crying. 

Riva Crugnola and colleagues state that it is important to train skills and competence in adolescent mother-infant interaction by setting up prevention programs. Young mothers should be supported in learning how to be a mother and regulating emotions (in particular, negative ones). Also, timing is everything - the researchers explain that it is also important to start preventive intervention in the first months of life.

Read More

Topics: The Observer XT, infant behavior, Observation lab, parent-infant dyads, adolescent behavior

Interspecific aggression: spotted dolphins vs. bottlenose dolphins

Jun 30, 2014 2:13:37 PM

In the animal kingdom, competition is a part of life. Dominance hierarchies are common both within a group in a species (intergroup) or between two different species (interspecific). These hierarchies often result in aggression as the groups fight for dominance. It would make sense, therefore, that two species who are similar in status in the dominance hierarchy would have an unstable relationship and therefore engage in interspecific aggression continuously over time. One example of two species consistently engaging in interspecific aggression to establish dominance would be the Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus).

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Topics: The Observer XT, behavioral research, dolphin

The welfare of therapy dogs

Jun 25, 2014 10:32:00 AM

As anyone who owns a pet could probably tell you, animals are great comforts to their human partners. The relationship between animal and human can go beyond just pet and owner, however, and become a therapeutic relationship. For example, dogs have been used with adult substance abuse patients in animal-assisted interventions (AAIs) and animal-assisted therapy (AAT). Why use dogs in therapy? They can be a good motivator for participation in an intervention and become a source of trust and comfort to the patient, thus improving the chance of therapy success. There has been a lot of research done on the impact that using dogs in therapy can have on humans. But what about the effect it has on the welfare of the dogs?

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Topics: The Observer XT, animal-human interaction, dogs, animal welfare


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