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Animal cognition and animal personality: Individual differences in exploratory behaviour, learning, vocal output, and hormonal response in an avian model

  • Author / Creator
    Guillette, Lauren M
  • The foremost goal of this thesis is to integrate the study of animal cognition with the field of animal personality. In the early 20th century, Pavlov integrated these fields by describing an interaction between associative learning and dogs that exhibited different behavioural types. Since Pavlov, little work has been conducted to examine how differences in cognition may affect the development of personality, the converse, or the interaction between the two. In Chapters 2 and 3 I use wild-caught black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) to examine if individual differences in learning speed are related to exploratory behaviour. Results from Chapter 2 show that fast-exploring chickadees solve an acoustic operant discrimination task in fewer trials compared to slow-exploring chickadees. In Chapter 3, the acoustic operant discrimination task included a reversal phase. Once each bird had learned to perform the correct response to two different stimulus categories, the reward contingencies associated with each category were reversed. Here I found that the slow-exploring chickadees outperformed the fast-exploring chickadees suggesting that variation in cognition and behavior may be maintained through habitat-dependent selection. That is, slow and fast exploring chickadees may excel in different environments. In Chapter 4, I used black-capped chickadees to examine if vocal production was related to exploratory behaviour. I found that vocal production was consistent over time in a control context and in a stressful context, but vocal production was not consistent across contexts. Furthermore, vocal production of the namesake chick-a-dee call and alarm call in the stressful context were positively related to exploratory behaviour. In Chapter 5, I used domestic pigeons (Columba livia) to examine the relationship between accuracy of discrimination and exploration. I found, contrary to the predicted direction, that fast-exploring pigeons were better discriminators compared to slow-exploring pigeons. Taken together, the experiments that comprise this thesis suggest that different cognitive styles do co-vary with different behavioural styles (i.e., animal personalities). Ongoing and future research directions for studying individual differences in cognition are discussed

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2012-11
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R3GW52
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Doctoral
  • Department
    • Department of Psychology
  • Specialization
    • Comparative Cognition and Behaviour
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Sturdy, Christopher (Psychology - University of Alberta)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Blumstein, Daniel (Ecology & Evolutionary Biology - University of California Los Angeles)
    • Coltman, David (Biological Sciences - University of Alberta)
    • Hurd, Pete (Psychology - University of Alberta)
    • Treit, Dallas (Psychology - University of Alberta)
    • Spetch, Marcia (Psychology - University of Alberta)