About this item:

109 Views | 84 Downloads

Author Notes:

Address correspondence to Allison L. Martin, Department of Psychology, Kennesaw State University, 402 Bartow Ave NW, MD 2202, Kennesaw, GA 30144., tel:470-578-5211., fax: 470-578-9146, alm8737@kennesaw.edu

The authors thank Christine Jonesteller for assistance with manuscript preparation and Kim Neu and Caroline Griffis for animal training and data collection


Research Funding:

This work was supported by the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, the NIH National Institute on Aging [P01AG026423], and of the NIH Office of Research Infrastructure Programs [P51 OD011132].


  • animal training
  • animal welfare
  • positive reinforcement training
  • preference testing
  • progressive ratio
  • reinforcer effectiveness

Systematic Assessment of Food Item Preference and Reinforcer Effectiveness: Enhancements in Training Laboratory-Housed Rhesus Macaques


Journal Title:



Volume 157


, Pages 445-452

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


The use of systematic preference assessments can enhance positive reinforcement training with captive animals. We found that the multiple stimulus without replacement (MSWO) technique identified food preferences in laboratory housed rhesus macaques, with raisins and grapes being ranked higher on average than dried apricot, pasta, and green beans (Friedman Test, χ2 (4) = 35.52, p < .001). Agreement between individuals (N = 21) was moderate (Kendall’s W = .42), and consistency across time varied among individuals (W = .03 to .90). Highly preferred items identified by the MSWO assessment were subsequently found to increase subjects’ engagement in a husbandry task on which they were being trained (Mann-Whitney U = 6.00, p = .002) and to improve performance on a progressive ratio schedule (Wilcoxon signed-rank test, Z = −2.17, p = .03) when compared with low preference items. The progressive ratio technique supplements other preference assessment techniques by measuring the amount of work a subject will do to gain access to an item. The use of more effective reinforcers identified through systematic assessment has the potential to increase animal performance on husbandry and research tasks and to improve animal welfare in the laboratory setting.

Copyright information:

© 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Export to EndNote