Kristina Horback

Kristina Horback

Position Title
Assistant Professor

Department of Animal Science, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences


Research Interests

Assessing the ontogeny of animal personality traits

Personality is defined by four key elements: (i) it is manifested early in life, and is relatively stable throughout development, (ii) it is primarily biologically based (genetics and neurobiological mechanisms), (iii) it refers to characteristics of behavioral reactions such as intensity, speed, response threshold, latency and recovery time, and (iv) it is most clearly expressed in novel and unpredictable situations. Previous research on animal personality suggests a relationship between certain traits and immunity strength, the ability to cope with physiological stress, the performance of abnormal or stereotypic behaviors, and the expression of pain. Distinguishing personality profiles for domesticated and utilized animals may help to gauge social compatibility of a group, customize environmental enrichment, and provide behavioral predictors of stress vulnerability.

Assessing affective states in animals

The predominant method of measuring animal welfare focuses on physical ailments, such as skin lesions, lameness, and body condition, while little attention is given to the psychological welfare of animals. There is currently no universal method to gauge the affective (emotional) state in non-human animals objectively. Cognitive bias testing allows researchers to infer how an individual’s affective state influences information processing, such as the evaluation of ambiguous stimuli. For example, individuals experiencing negatively valenced mental states (e.g., anxiety, fear, pain) will display “pessimistic” appraisals of ambiguous stimuli.

Grad Group Affiliations

  • Animal Behavior

Specialties / Focus

  • Animal Management and Welfare
  • Physiology and Behavior

Professional Societies

  • Animal Behavior Society
  • International Society for Applied Ethology


  • 2007 BA Psychology University of California San Diego
  • 2011 MA Experimental Psychology University of Southern Mississippi
  • 2012 PhD Experimental Psychology University of Southern Mississippi


Horback, K. (in press). Personality in swine. In J. Vonk, S. Kuczaj and A. Weiss (Eds.), Personality in non-human animals. Springer.

Horback, K., Pierdon, M., & Parsons, T. (in press). Behavioral preference for enrichment type in group housed gestating sows. Applied Animal Behavior Science.

Horback, K. & Parsons, T. (2016). Temporal stability of personality traits in group-housed gestating sows. Animal, 1-9.

Hacker, C., Horback, K., & Miller, L. (2015). GPS technology as a proxy tool for determining relationships in social animals: An example with African elephants. Applied Animal Behavior Science, 163, 175-182.

Horback, K., Miller, L., Andrews, J., & Kuczaj, S. (2014). Daytime versus nighttime activity budgets of zoo African elephants. Zoo Biology, 33, 403-410.

Horback, K. (2014). Nosing around: Play in pigs. Animal Behavior Cognition, 1, 186-196.

Kuczaj, S., & Horback, K. (2013). Play and emotions. In S. Watanabe and S. Kuczaj (Eds.), Comparative perspectives on human and animal emotions (pp. 87-112). Springer.

Horback, K., Miller, L., & Kuczaj, S. (2013). Personality assessment in African elephants: Consistency over time. Applied Animal Behavior Science, 149, 55-62.

Horback, K., Muraco, H., & Kuczaj, S. (2012). Variations in interspecific social behavior throughout the estrous cycle of a killer whale. Aquatic Mammals, 38, 428-434.

Horback, K., Miller, L., Andrews, J., Kuczaj, S., & Anderson, M. (2012). The effects of GPS collars on African elephant behavior. Applied Animal Behavior Science, 142, 76-81.

Horback, K., Friedman, W., & Johnson, C. (2010). Occurrence and context of S-postures in beluga whales. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 23, 689-700.