Functional Analysis and Successful Treatment of a Captive Rhesus Macaque's Disruptive Behavior

J Appl Anim Welf Sci. 2022 Jul-Sep;25(3):287-296. doi: 10.1080/10888705.2021.1931868. Epub 2021 May 31.


Functional analysis (FA) is a method developed and used by behavior analysts in human clinical settings to identify possible environmental variables that reinforce undesired behavior. FA is increasingly being applied to better understand the behavior of nonhuman animals. When training monkeys in a room with others, disruptive behavior displayed by neighboring monkeys can impede training progress. In the present study, a FA identified possible reinforcers of disruptive behavior (loud shaking of a toy) exhibited frequently (24% duration pre-treatment) by a rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) during in-room training sessions. The functional analysis identified that contingent delivery of foods was maintaining the disruptive behavior, with a mean percent duration of 57% in this condition. The implementation of a function-based treatment consisting of continuous access to a preferred food during in-room training sessions successfully decreased disruptive behavior by over 90% as measured during 15 subsequent sessions. This study advances the current literature applying functional analysis to nonhuman primates as a means of determining the reinforcers maintaining aberrant or undesirable behavior and applying effective treatments based on understanding this function.

Keywords: Positive reinforcement training; animal welfare; disruptive behavior; functional analysis; nonhuman primate.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Problem Behavior*
  • Research Design