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Characterizing innovators: Ecological and individual predictors of problem-solving performance


Prasher, Sanjay; Evans, Julian C; Thompson, Megan J; Morand-Ferron, Julie (2019). Characterizing innovators: Ecological and individual predictors of problem-solving performance. PLoS ONE, 14(6):e0217464.

Abstract

Behavioural innovation, the use of new behaviours or existing ones in novel contexts, can have important ecological and evolutionary consequences for animals. An understanding of these consequences would be incomplete without considering the traits that predispose certain individuals to exhibit innovative behaviour. Several individual and ecological variables are hypothesized to affect innovativeness, but empirical studies show mixed results. We examined the effects of dominance rank, exploratory personality, and urbanisation on the innovativeness of wild-caught black-capped chickadees using a survival analysis of their performance in two problem-solving tasks. Additionally, we provide one of the first investigations of the predictors of persistence in a problem-solving context. For lever pulling, we found a trend for dominants to outperform subordinates, particularly in rural birds, which did not align with predictions from the necessity drives innovation hypothesis. When examining possible explanations for this trend we found that older chickadees outperformed younger birds. This follow-up analysis also revealed a positive effect of exploratory personality on the lever-pulling performance of chickadees. Our results suggest that experience may foster innovation in certain circumstances, for instance via the application of previously-acquired information or skills to a novel problem. As we found different predictors for both tasks, this suggests that task characteristics influence the innovative propensity of individuals, and that their effects should be investigated experimentally.

Abstract

Behavioural innovation, the use of new behaviours or existing ones in novel contexts, can have important ecological and evolutionary consequences for animals. An understanding of these consequences would be incomplete without considering the traits that predispose certain individuals to exhibit innovative behaviour. Several individual and ecological variables are hypothesized to affect innovativeness, but empirical studies show mixed results. We examined the effects of dominance rank, exploratory personality, and urbanisation on the innovativeness of wild-caught black-capped chickadees using a survival analysis of their performance in two problem-solving tasks. Additionally, we provide one of the first investigations of the predictors of persistence in a problem-solving context. For lever pulling, we found a trend for dominants to outperform subordinates, particularly in rural birds, which did not align with predictions from the necessity drives innovation hypothesis. When examining possible explanations for this trend we found that older chickadees outperformed younger birds. This follow-up analysis also revealed a positive effect of exploratory personality on the lever-pulling performance of chickadees. Our results suggest that experience may foster innovation in certain circumstances, for instance via the application of previously-acquired information or skills to a novel problem. As we found different predictors for both tasks, this suggests that task characteristics influence the innovative propensity of individuals, and that their effects should be investigated experimentally.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
Life Sciences > General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
Health Sciences > Multidisciplinary
Language:English
Date:12 June 2019
Deposited On:14 Feb 2020 11:39
Last Modified:22 Apr 2020 22:40
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
ISSN:1932-6203
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0217464

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