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A history-based method to estimate animal preference

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Abstract

Giving animals their preferred items (e.g., environmental enrichment) has been suggested as a method to improve animal welfare, thus raising the question of how to determine what animals want. Most studies have employed choice tests for detecting animal preferences. However, whether choice tests represent animal preferences remains a matter of controversy. Here, we present a history-based method to analyse data from individual choice tests to discriminate between preferred and non-preferred items. This method differentially weighs choices from older and recent tests performed over time. Accordingly, we provide both a preference index that identifies preferred items contrasted with non-preferred items in successive multiple-choice tests and methods to detect the strength of animal preferences for each item. We achieved this goal by investigating colour choices in the Nile tilapia fish species.

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Maia, C. M., & Volpato, G. L. (2016). A history-based method to estimate animal preference. Scientific Reports, 6. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep28328

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