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A novel test for evaluating horses’ spontaneous visual attention

Abstract : Attention is described as the ability to process selectively one aspect of the environment over others. In the present study, we chose to characterize horses’ attention by designing a novel visual attention test (VAT) that is easy to apply in the animal’s home environment. This test was based on spontaneous attention behaviour. Twelve mares aged from 5 to 17 year old (± SE=8.9±1.1) were tested. During the test a light from a laser pointer was projected for 5 minutes. The test was repeated over three consecutive days and repeated again 6 months later in order to assess inter-individual variations and intra-individual stability. By measuring all horses’ gazes towards the stimulus, our VAT revealed different patterns of attention: ‘overall’ attention (i.e. the horse merely gazed at the stimulus), and ‘fixed’ attention (i.e. fixity and orientation of at least the visual and auditory organs). The individual attention characteristics remained consistent over time (after 6 months, Spearman correlation test P<0.05). The validity of this test as a predictor of attentional skills was assessed by comparing the results, for the same horses, with those obtained in both a ‘classical’ experimental attention test the ‘five-choice serial reaction-time task’ (5-CSRTT) and a work situation (lunge working context). The 5-CSRTT was especially adapted to horses for the first time in this study. Our results revealed that i) individual variations remained consistent across tests, ii) the VAT attention measures were not only predictive of attentional skills, but also of learning abilities. Differences appeared however between the first testing and the following tests days: attention structure on the second day was predictive of learning abilities, attention performances in the 5-CSRRT and at work. The VAT appears as a promising easy-to-use tool to assess animals’ attention characteristics and the impact of different factors of variation on attention.
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https://hal-univ-rennes1.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01576505
Contributor : Umr6552 Ethos <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, August 23, 2017 - 12:01:48 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 9, 2020 - 4:08:04 PM

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  • HAL Id : hal-01576505, version 1

Citation

Céline Rochais, Séverine Henry, Mélissa Sébilleau, Philippe Bec, Mathilde Houdebine, et al.. A novel test for evaluating horses’ spontaneous visual attention. Behaviour 2017 - 35th International Ethological Conference, Jul 2017, Estoril, Portugal. ⟨hal-01576505⟩

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