Magic Mustang Tamer

Quantifying Resilience: 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 in the interest of improving the measurability of the emotional aspects of animal training.

Quantifying resilience of humans and other animals

READ — Date: 9 October, 2020 Reason: search for useful metrics

CITATION: Scheffer, M., Bolhuis, J. E., Borsboom, D., Buchman, T. G., Gijzel, S. M., Goulson, D., … & Martin, C. M. (2018). Quantifying resilience of humans and other animals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences115(47), 11883-11890.

KEYWORDS: systemic resilience, critical slowing down

QUESTIONS ASKED: review of systems resilience and application to several types of systems

METHOD/APPROACH: Examines ecological and physiological models, identifying the system resilience and the subsystem resilience, comparing them to the model in a non-quantitative way.

SIGNIFICANCE: heuristic models of DIORS


  1. Critical slowing down is measurable, especially with monitoring devices, and is a very good marker for decreasing resilience except in cyclic or chaotic systems.
  2. Critical slowing down manifests in the data as higher temporally autocorrelated measures of state with more variance.
  3. Buffering small perturbations keeps a system from approaching a less functional state.
  4. A frail system will have a longer recovery rate.
  5. Subsystems may have their own resilience, but increasing the resilience of a subsystem will increase resilience of whole system.
  6. Small stresses to the system seems to keep the buffering system functioning, ready to respond to greater challenges, and constantly adapting to changes in the environment. “Use it or lose it.”
  7. The greater the autonomy of the subsystems (less cross-correlation), the more resilient the system will be.


  • DIORs: dynamic indicators of resilience
  • Systemic resilience: capacity to return to normal after perturbation, also called competence of system in some literature
  • Tipping point: a threshold where feedback cycles propels a transition to a contrasting state, also called collapse
  • Critical slowing down: lag in system recovery, identified by author as a generic risk marker for collapse
  • Temporal autocorrelation: similarity of same type of measures in different time periods
  • Cross-correlations: similarity of pattern of changes between two separate types of measures.


  • Could we devise a way to compare the emotional resilience of animals in a real-time way to track emotional balance?
  •  What would be the drawback of simply measuring recovery time? How could it be implemented?
  • What are the subsystems of emotional balance?

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