Technical and conceptual considerations for using animated stimuli in studies of animal behavior

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Rapid technical advances in the field of computer animation (CA) and virtual reality (VR) have opened new avenues in animal behavior research. Animated stimuli are powerful tools as they offer standardization, repeatability, and complete control over the stimulus presented, thereby "reducing" and "replacing" the animals used, and "refining" the experimental design in line with the 3Rs. However, appropriate use of these technologies raises conceptual and technical questions. In this review, we offer guidelines for common technical and conceptual considerations related to the use of animated stimuli in animal behavior research. Following the steps required to create an animated stimulus, we discuss (I) the creation, (II) the presentation, and (III) the validation of CAs and VRs. Although our review is geared toward computer-graphically designed stimuli, considerations on presentation and validation also apply to video playbacks. CA and VR allow both new behavioral questions to be addressed and existing questions to be addressed in new ways, thus we expect a rich future for these methods in both ultimate and proximate studies of animal behavior.


  • Laura Chouinard-Thuly
  • Stefanie Gierszewski
  • Gil G. Rosenthal
  • Simon M. Reader
  • Guillaume Rieucau
  • Kevin L. Woo
  • Robert Gerlai
  • Cynthia Tedore
  • Spencer J. Ingley
  • John R. Stowers
  • Joachim G. Frommen
  • Francine L. Dolins
  • Klaudia Witte
External organisations
  • McGill University
  • University of Siegen
  • Texas A and M University
  • Centro de Investigaciones Científicas de las Huastecas 'Aguazarca' (CICHAZ)
  • Florida International University
  • SUNY Empire State College
  • University of Toronto
  • University of North Carolina
  • Vienna Biocenter (VBC)
  • loopbio gmbh
  • University of Bern
  • University of Michigan-Dearborn
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Zoology


  • Animal behavior, Animated stimulus, Computer animation, Experimental design, Virtual reality, Visual communication
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-19
Number of pages15
JournalCurrent Zoology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jan 1
Publication categoryResearch