Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

Previous Page


B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #35
CE Offered: PSY/BACB

Behavioral Indicators of Welfare: A Balance-Based Approach

Saturday, May 24, 2014
2:00 PM–2:50 PM
W180 (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: AAB; Domain: Applied Research
Instruction Level: Basic
CE Instructor: Jason Watters, Ph.D.
Chair: Lindsay Mehrkam (University of Florida)
JASON WATTERS (San Francisco Zoo)
Jason Watters received his Ph.D. in animal behavior from the University of California at Davis. His research interests have covered numerous topics in animal behavior. For example, he has studied mating systems, behavioral development, and the causes and consequences of behavioral syndromes' animal personalities. Dr. Watters' research program currently focuses on learning and behavioral indicators of welfare in zoo animals. His studies have investigated behavioral issues in numerous species including insects, fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals. In addition to his Ph.D. in animal behavior, he earned a certificate in exotic animal training and management and has held positions at zoos and aquariums. Currently, Dr. Watters oversees a program charged with measuring and ensuring animal wellness at the San Francisco Zoo and is also the executive editor of the journal Zoo Biology. [Photo by Jim Schultz, Chicago Zoological Society]

Individuals who manage the welfare of zoo animals seek practical approaches to caring for a diversity of species. In general, animal managers hope to understand animals' behavioral needs, how animals express their experiences of positive welfare, and how to ensure that positive experiences balance any negative ones. Research findings in several fields, including psychology, neuroscience, animal behavior, and zoo biology, indicate core behavioral needs. Combined, the evidence suggests that animals who can express these needs are psychologically and emotionally enriched. Here, Dr. Watters will describe the core behavioral needs of investigating, acquiring reward and exerting control. He will describe a developing "balance-based" approach designed to ascertain the frequency with which these needs are met and not met in an animal's life through behavioral observation. Various behaviors indicate the presence or absence of opportunities to meet the core needs and Dr. Watters will challenge the assumption that the behavioral repertoire of zoo animals should mirror that of animals in the wild. He will emphasize that animal welfare depends upon the balance individuals can obtain between meeting and not meeting their behavioral needs. Animals that are out of balance in the simple sense that they have few opportunities for positive experiences are in a state of welfare that can be improved.

Target Audience:

Behavior analysts who have an interest in zoo animal behavior and welfare

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants should be able to (1) Understand a new approach to assessing animal welfare--one that is focused on evaluating animals' core needs and develops a new behavioral analysis to do this; (2) Explain the basic principles of constructing animal welfare "balance sheets;" and (3) Understand the issues associated with the classification of behavior. Specifically, participants will be exposed to the problems associated with misclassifying behaviors associated with animal learning.  
Keyword(s): animal behavior, animal welfare



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh