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Bridging pure cognitive research and cognitive enrichment


Cognitive enrichment is a growing subset of environmental enrichment for captive animals. However, it has been difficult for practitioners to design, implement, and evaluate relevant and appropriate cognitive challenges. Even though pure comparative cognition researchers focus on fundamental evolutionary questions, their knowledge and expertise can also shape the future of cognitive enrichment. This paper describes the motive, means, and opportunity to do so. Taxon-specific summaries of animal cognition (including inter-individual variation in skill and effects of motivation), and experimental designs (including the task itself, training, and reward) need to be accessible to practitioners in applied settings, such as farms, zoos, and sanctuaries. Furthermore, I invite pure researchers to directly evaluate their cognitive research program as enrichment and thus bridge the disciplines of animal cognition and welfare.

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The author thanks colleagues at the Zoological Society of London, Royal Veterinary College, Bristol Zoological Society, University of Bristol, and University of Cambridge. The author also wishes to thank two anonymous peer reviewers and the Associate Editor for their valuable contributions to improving the manuscript.


The author received no funding for this research. At the time of writing, the author held an honorary research associate position at the University of Bristol.

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Correspondence to Fay E. Clark.

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Clark, F.E. Bridging pure cognitive research and cognitive enrichment. Anim Cogn (2022).

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  • Affective state
  • Animal welfare
  • Cognitive task
  • Emotion
  • Research impact