How to stay perfect: the role of memory and behavioural traits in an experienced problem and a similar problemReportar como inadecuado

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Animal Cognition

pp 1–12

First Online: 11 July 2017Received: 17 December 2016Revised: 23 June 2017Accepted: 05 July 2017


When animals encounter a task they have solved previously, or the same problem appears in a different apparatus, how does memory, alongside behavioural traits such as persistence, selectivity and flexibility, enhance problem-solving efficiency? We examined this question by first presenting grey squirrels with a puzzle 22 months after their last experience of it the recall task. Squirrels were then given the same problem presented in a physically different apparatus the generalisation task to test whether they would apply the previously learnt tactics to solve the same problem but in a different apparatus. The mean latency to success in the first trial of the recall task was significantly different from the first exposure but not different from the last exposure of the original task, showing retention of the task. A neophobia test in the generalisation task suggested squirrels perceived the different apparatus as a different problem, but they quickly came to apply the same effective tactics as before to solve the task. Greater selectivity the proportion of effective behaviours and flexibility the rate of switching between tactics both enhanced efficiency in the recall task, but only selectivity enhanced efficiency in the generalisation task. These results support the interaction between memory and behavioural traits in problem-solving, in particular memory of task-specific tactics that could enhance efficiency. Squirrels remembered and emitted task-effective tactics more than ineffective tactics. As a result, they consistently changed from ineffective to effective behaviours after failed attempts at problem-solving.

KeywordsProblem-solving Generalisation Positive transfer Behavioural traits Memory Squirrels Problem-solving efficiency Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1007-s10071-017-1113-7 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Autor: Pizza Ka Yee Chow - Stephen E. G. Lea - Natalie Hempel de Ibarra - Théo Robert


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