Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2015

Abstract

Qualitative behavioural assessment (QBA) is based on observers’ ability to capture the dynamic complexity of an animal’s demeanour as it interacts with the environment, in terms such as tense, anxious or relaxed. Sensitivity to context is part of QBA’s integrative capacity and discriminatory power; however, when not properly managed it can also be a source of undesirable variability and bias. This study investigated the sensitivity of QBA to variations in the visual or verbal information provided to observers, using free-choice profiling (FCP) methodology. FCP allows observers to generate their own descriptive terms for animal demeanour, against which each animal’s expressions are quantified on a visual analogue scale. The resulting scores were analysed with Generalised Procrustes Analysis (GPA), generating two or more multi-variate dimensions of animal expression. Study 1 examined how 63 observers rated the same video clips of individual sheep during land transport, when these clips were interspersed with two different sets of video footage. Scores attributed to the sheep in the two viewing sessions correlated significantly (GPA dimension 1: rs = 0.95, P

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