Cronin, K. A., Bethell, E. J., Jacobson, S. L. et al. 2018. Evaluating mood changes in response to anthropogenic noise with a response-slowing task in three species of zoo-housed primates. Animal Behavior and Cognition 5(2), 209–221.

In the zoo environment, anthropogenic noise is common as sound levels fluctuate due to visitors, construction, habitat design, and special events. In this study, changes in the mood of three species of zoo-housed primates in response to a loud annual event were evaluated with the response-slowing paradigm. In this paradigm, animals experiencing anxiety slow responses on simple cognitive tasks when emotional content is displayed. Following a previously validated approach, we measured latencies to touch potentially threatening (conspecific faces with directed gaze) and non-threatening (conspecific faces with averted gaze) images overlaid on a grey square, relative to neutral control images (grey squares only) on a touchscreen. In Experiment 1, four Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) were tested in two conditions: during a baseline (non-stressful) period and opportunistically during three days during which loud jets frequently flew overhead. Results indicated a significant effect of condition, with an increase in latency to touch images of conspecific faces relative to control images during the days of the loud event. In Experiment 2, chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes, n = 4) and western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla, n = 2) were tested during the same loud event following a similar methodology. The results revealed subtle changes across conditions; however, this was likely driven by the apes increasing their response speed to face stimuli relative to control stimuli over time (habituation). These findings suggest that the macaques, but not the apes, underwent detectable affective changes during the loud event. With additional development, this relatively simple paradigm may be an effective and feasible way to evaluate real-time changes in the mood of zoohoused animals.