Date of Thesis



Self-directed behavior (SDB), such as scratching, is a reliable indicator of emotional arousal in non-human primates. In contrast, affiliative behavior, such as social grooming, has been shown to have a calming effect in primates and reduce arousal. In order to test whether the expression of SDB was related to arousal, the scratching behavior of eight captive squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus) was compared across four social contexts (huddling, proximity to others, solitary and post-conflict). In addition,rates of scratching were examined before and after affiliative behavior during the postconflict context. I tested for this effect by using the post-conflict/matched control(PC/MC) method in which post-conflict (PC) behavior of an animal is compared to thebehavior of the same animal in a baseline, nonaggressive situation or a matched control(MC). Context and associated scratching data were obtained from a total of 98 hours of focal sample data. Scratching was significantly lower while animals were huddling thanthe other two contexts. Scratching rates while solitary were significantly higher than those occurring while animals were in proximity. Scratching was also higher in PC than MC. Following conflict, animals were significantly more likely to make contact withthird parties not involved in aggression. Most of these (79%) were a third party approaching a combatant. Further, scratching rates decreased following post-conflict third party contacts and the decrease was not due to a general decrease in scratching thatmight have been occurring after the aggressive interaction. Huddling behavior appears to reduce arousal in squirrel monkeys and may act as a tension-reduction mechanism. The elevated scratching in the solitary context may suggest that squirrel monkeys may be engaged in activities while solitary, such as vigilant behavior that may increase arousal. The third party post conflict affiliative contacts observed were the first such interactions observed in squirrel monkeys. The fact that these third contacts reduced scratching ratesin the combatants indicates that 'consolation' may have been demonstrated in this species. The overall pattern of results suggested that scratching was reliable behavioral indicator of anxiety in squirrel monkeys. These results indicate that overt behavior can be used to assess emotional states in this and other species, acting as a mediator to understanding how emotions regulate social behavior.


Self-directed behavior, anxiety, post-conflict, emotion

Access Type

Masters Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Master of Science



First Advisor

Peter Gregory Judge