Mood induction alters attention toward negative-positive stimulus pairs in sheep.Sci Rep 2019; 9(1):7759SR
Mood is a lasting affective state that influences motivation and decision-making by pre-shaping a subject's expectations (pessimism/optimism). Mood states affect biases in judgment, memory, and attention. Due to a lack of verbal report, assessing mood in non-human animals is challenging and is often compromised by intense training sessions. Measuring mood using attentional biases can circumvent this problem, as it takes advantage of observing a spontaneous reaction. As in humans, we expected that negative mood will heighten attention toward negative compared to positive stimuli. Here, we validate measures of attention toward acoustic stimuli in sheep (N = 64) and assess sheep's differential attention toward acoustic stimuli before and after mood induction (N = 32). Mood was induced by manipulating the environment. We used animal vocalizations (dog barking and sheep bleating as negative and positive stimuli, respectively) varying in intensity and played simultaneously from one side each, and measured lateral attention based on the sheep's behavior. Overall results were somewhat ambiguous. Yet, negative mood sheep seemed to shift their attention more toward dog vocalizations when the stimulus pair was well balanced at baseline. Though some adaptations are still needed, our approach could be a promising alternative to measure animals' mood without prior training.