ABS 2022
Among-individual differences in auditory and physical cognitive abilities in zebra finches
Connor T. Lambert1, Prateek K. Sahu1, Christopher B. Sturdy1,2, Lauren M. Guillette1. 1Department of Psychology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada; 2Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute, University of Albert, Edmonton, AB, Canada

Many species display wide variation in how quickly different individuals learn, and understanding these individual differences is essential for understanding cognitive evolution because natural selection acts at the individual level. However, little is known about the extent to which learning abilities in animals are related or dissociable, i.e. does learning ability translate across different ecological/sensory contexts? We examined learning speed of thirty-two zebra finches in seven distinct learning tasks- four foraging board tasks involving visual and structural information, and three acoustic operant box tasks- to examine (1) if learning is correlated and repeatable across tasks, and (2) if learning speed relates to learning generalization. We found birds’ relative performance across the seven learning tasks was weakly repeatable and could be partly explained by common factor.  Learning speed did not correlate with generalization ability. These results suggest that zebra finch learning abilities across different ecological/sensory domains involves some common mechanism that could be considered domain-general learning or a non-cognitive mechanism such as motivation.