Doctorado en comportamiento animal en Francia ~

27 de mayo de 2018

Doctorado en comportamiento animal en Francia

Thesis title: Attention, social representation and communication in the starling

3 keywords: attention / birdsong / social cognition

Supervisor’s name: Laurence HENRY

Phone number: 02 23 23 50 76

Email address:

Socio-economic and scientific context:

Studies carried out on social influences on the development of social skills and communication in songbirds, suggest a fundamental role of selective attention as it is the case for human language development. Our previous studies have shown that a social deficit during development leads to sensory deficits as well as to disturbances of social representations, even at the brain level. However, the precise mechanisms involved remain poorly known. It has been proposed that selective attention toward an adult social model could be a key element for the development of social cognition. This thesis would fit into the international scientific debates on the processes underlying social cognition and its development during normal or disturbed ontogenesis. The link between social and non social cognitive abilities has been little studied, whereas there is a clear implication of attentional processes in social learning, in terms of social and communication.

Working hypothesis and aims:

The aim of this PhD project is to test the close link between social cognition and attention. It will consist in relating individual attentional abilities to the existence or development of social competencies, as a consequence of a normal or disturbed ontogenesis. Since starlings present vocal “social markers”, an interest will also be given to how the birds pay attention to social signals produced by birds of their own or another social community. The originality of this project will be to combine experimental laboratory/captive studies with field experiments, to some part in South Africa on local species of sturnids already followed by the team. If the candidate wishes, he/she will be able to conduct electrophysiological studies, such as those previously done by the team, in order to look more finely at the brain processes.

Main milestones of the thesis:

The main steps of the thesis will be: 1) the characterization of spontaneous individual attentional skills when in groups or during individual tests, 2) the follow-up of individual attentional characteristics of young laboratory raised animals according to the social experience offered, 3) the comparison of the attention paid by birds to social signals, vocal in particular, produced by birds of their own/other group or population.

Thus, the first part will consist in testing the hypothesis of a link between spontaneous individual attentional characteristics (visual in particular) and social competencies (social integration within the group, vocal sharing, responses to tests of social representation) in adult captive starlings. In parallel, young individuals will be raised in the laboratory and their attentional network will be studied (peers, non-parent and parent adults). Birds with different social experiences (with or without adult models) will be compared.Finally, interspecific comparisons will be possible on European and African sturnids, through captive and field observational and experimental studies.

Scientific and technical skills required by the candidate:

The candidate should master the theoretical and methodological concepts of ethology. A basic level of English is required. Driving licence and autonomy will be necessary for field work

3 publications from the team related to the topic:

Laurence Henry, Stéphanie Barbu, Alban Lemasson, Martine Hausberger. Dialects in animals: Evidence, development and potential functions. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 2015, 2 (2), pp.132-155. 〈〉. 〈10.12966/abc.05.03.2015〉

Laurence Henry, Adrian J. F. K. Craig, Alban Lemasson, Martine Hausberger. Social coordination in animal vocal interactions. Is there any evidence of turn-taking? The starling as an animal model. Frontiers in Psychology, Frontiers, 2015, 6, pp.1416. 〈10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01416〉

Perret, A., Henry L., Coulon, M., Caudal, J.P., Richard, J.P. Cousillas H., Hausberger M. & George I, (2015). Social visual contact, a primary “drive” for social animals? Animal Cognition. 8(3):657-66.

National and international collaborations:
Numerous collaborations, see here :

Please send a CV, a letter of motivation and the names and contact information of at least two scientists available for reference to :

Application deadline: June 4 2018:

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