Cognition, Learning & Behavior

„Vienna has a long tradition of behavioral research. We have a great ecosystem of researchers and institutions and the WWTF is right to invest here. From Vetmeduni's point of view, research in animal health and welfare cannot progress without excellent basic research in these areas.“

Prof. Otto Doblhoff-Dier, Vice Rector for Research of the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna 

Recent WWTF Projects

Understanding Memory

Physiology of

Universal aesthetics

Even great artists like Kandinsky and Mondrian agreed that lines and colours are perceived very similarly by people. Now, for the first time, an interdisciplinary team around Raphael Rosenberg jointly investigated the effect of and partiality towards lines and colours. Surprisingly, the results of their interdisciplinary research do not at all support the conventional view. Indeed, contrary to centuries of assumptions, the perception of art is strongly subjective. Thus, a universal aesthetic of lines and colours only exists to a certain extent. What is particularly exciting is that the degree of agreement in terms of preferences does not depend on the art expertise of the person in question.

The innovation problem

New inventions enable animals and humans to deal with unexpected challenges. Inventions of new tools are particularly useful and have played an important role in human evolution. Although children already use complex tools by the age of two, they have surprising problems developing new tools themselves until the age of eight. Reasons for this phenomenon were investigated in the project of Alice Auersperg and her team.

The social brain

In recent years, research has provided increasingly detailed insights into the neural mechanisms of human social behaviour. However, without considering human evolution, our understanding of social behaviour remains incomplete. Dogs are of particular interest in the study of the evolutionary aspects of social behavior, as they share a history of several thousand years with us humans. The aim of this project lead by Claus Lamm is to compare the basics of social behavior in dogs and humans in order to better understand the evolution of social cognition.

From dogs and wolves

Oxytocin promotes cooperation and social orientation, and reduces fear and aggression. An interdisciplinary team around Sarah Marshall raised the questions: what role did oxytocin play in the domestication process of the wolf? And what influence does it have on our cooperative partner, the dog? The results showed that only dogs living and interacting with humans in households show an increase in oxytocin levels. However, this was not the case with dogs or wolves living in research centres, even when interacting with people familiar to them. The team concluded that the type of socialisation and relationship with "their" human likely plays a key role in the increase in oxytocin levels. Dogs with measurable increases in oxytocin levels spent more time near "their" humans and maintained eye contact with them for longer.

Explore more WWTF Projects

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