Dimensions of Temperament Modulate Cue-Controlled Behavior: A Study on Pavlovian to Instrumental Transfer in Horses (Equus Caballus)

Léa Lansade*, Etienne Coutureau, Alain Marchand, Gersende Baranger, Mathilde Valenchon, Ludovic Calandreau

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Pavlovian to instrumental transfer (PIT) is a central factor in how cues influence animal behavior. PIT refers to the capacity of a Pavlovian cue that predicts a reward to elicit or increase a response intended to obtain the same reward. In the present study, using an equine model, we assessed whether PIT occurs in hoofed domestic animals and whether its efficacy can be modulated by temperamental dimensions. To study PIT, horses were submitted to Pavlovian conditioning whereby an auditory-visual stimulus was repeatedly followed by food delivery. Then, horses were submitted to instrumental conditioning during which they learned to touch with their noses an object signaled by the experimenter in order to obtain the same reward. During the PIT test, the Pavlovian conditioned stimulus was presented to the animal in the absence of reward. At the end of the experiment, a battery of behavioral tests was performed on all animals to assess five temperamental dimensions and investigate their relationships with instrumental performance. The results indicate that PIT can be observed in horses and that its efficacy is greatly modulated by individual temperament. Indeed, individuals with a specific pattern of temperamental dimensions (i.e., higher levels of gregariousness, fearfulness, and sensory sensitivity) exhibited the strongest PIT. The demonstration of the existence of PIT in domesticated animals (i.e., horses) is important for the optimization of its use by humans and the improvement of training methods. Moreover, because PIT may be implicated in psychological phenomena, including addictive behaviors, the observation of relationships between specific temperamental dimensions and PIT efficacy may aid in identifying predisposing temperamental attributes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere64853
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2013


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