Magic Mustang Tamer

Anticipatory Behavior: My Reading

Each paper in the “My Reading” series is an interpretation of a scientific paper on a topic of interest to animal trainers. This paper is presented ___.

A concept of welfare based on reward-evaluating mechanisms in the brain: anticipatory behaviour as an indicator for the state of reward systems

READ — Date: 6 October, 2020 Reason: Considering measures of calmness

CITATION: Spruijt, B. M., van den Bos, R., & Pijlman, F. T. (2001). A concept of welfare based on reward evaluating mechanisms in the brain: anticipatory behaviour as an indicator for the state of reward systems. Applied Animal Behaviour Science72(2), 145-171.

KEYWORDS: anticipation, motivating systems, economy of behavior, emotions

QUESTIONS ASKED: What are the justifications for using anticipatory behavior as an indicator of welfare?

METHOD/APPROACH: Review and synthesis.

SIGNIFICANCE: Suggests a specific metric for measuring mental welfare of animals.


  1. Evolution favors economy and efficiency and the neurological systems of animals have been selected for accurate and fast assessment of the cost-benefit of response to environmental challenge.
  2. Motivational systems and emotional states are part of this neurological system. The Central Nervous System is organized to respond to these challenges by integrating information and responses. Primary parts of the system include the emotional command centers in the hypothalamus and amygdala.
  3. Evolution favors the experience of useful things as “pleasant” and detrimental things as “unpleasant”. These things are very species-specific.
  4. Reward and stress facilitate or inhibit the motivation systems.
  5. We can’t see the actual emotions or motivational system in operation but must make inferences from behavioral patterns.
  6. Anticipatory behavior patterns reflect the balance between the incentive value and the context in which the incentive is being delivered. It reflects the state of the reward centers in the brain.
  7. Stress may be diminished by previous coping experience and concurrent rewarding events.
  8. A stress-free environment is not optimal in the long run. A better plan is to develop coping ability and resilience.
  9. Acute stressors can be balanced by the availability of other rewards.
  10. Cats did not show typical anticipatory behaviors in a study by the author.


  • Incentive stimulus: an appetitive stimulus, something the animal wants.
  • Motivational system: a network of connections and neurochemicals that produce cohesive response aimed at maintaining the transient balance between satisfaction and stress.
  •  Emotional state: an organizing element of the internal state responding to external signals.
  • Anticipatory behaviors: pre-consumption responses to incentive stimuli, the activity between click and treat. Exploratory behaviors or behavior fragments during the interval preceding collection of the reward.
  • Welfare: the non-transient balance between satisfaction and stress (rewarding and aversive events). Welfare should be defined as reflecting chronic conditions.


  • How would you tease out the components of welfare affecting anticipatory behavior?
  • Does this hypothesis require an emergent “form of awareness” in the moment of anticipation (page 163 bottom paragraph)?
  • Why doesn’t this work with cats?
  • Does deprivation increase anticipatory behavior without decreasing welfare?
  • Does this work on equine species?
  • Where is a paper describing the actual protocol?
  • How much variation of rates of anticipatory behaviors would be explained by individual differences?

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