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Behavioral stereotypies in captive animals have been defined as repetitive, largely invariant patterns of behavior that serve no obvious goal or function (Mason, 1991a; Ödberg, 1978). Stereotypies are commonly attributed to boredom and/or fear and are typically “treated” by trying to enrich the captive environment with distracting, appealing stimuli. These stimuli often include food presented at times outside of regular feeding times, and as a result, engage species-typical foraging behaviors in the process of reducing stereotypic activity. This presentation examines the defining features and common hypotheses surrounding stereotypies, including what their function is and how they can be addressed. Of primary concern will be (1) what are stereotypies (what does and doesn’t meet the definition), (2) specific examples of how they’ve been discussed and dealt with, and (3) practical solutions for applied animal behaviorists for both defining and treating stereotypies. Emphasis will be placed on an empirical, functional approach to dealing with stereotypies, including how any scientist and/or practitioner can be most effective when dealing with this topic. Learning Objectives What are stereotypies in terms of their definition and examples? How do we talk about stereotypies in terms of their form and function? What evidence supports their hypothesized functions? How are most stereotypies treated, and which of these treatments are most effective? What does an empirical, functional approach to stereotypies look like, and why is this important for both science and practice?
Speaker(s):Eduardo Fernandez PhD