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Do the more flexible individuals rely more on causal cognition? Observation versus intervention in causal inference in great-tailed grackles

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Rowney,  Carolyn
Department of Primatology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Folsom,  Melissa
Department of Human Behavior Ecology and Culture, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Deffner,  Dominik
Department of Human Behavior Ecology and Culture, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Logan,  Corina J.
Department of Human Behavior Ecology and Culture, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Blaisdell, A., Seitz, B., Rowney, C., Folsom, M., MacPherson, M., Deffner, D., et al. (2020). Do the more flexible individuals rely more on causal cognition? Observation versus intervention in causal inference in great-tailed grackles. PsyArXiv. doi:10.31234/osf.io/z4p6s.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-7956-1
Abstract
Behavioral flexibility, the ability to change behavior when circumstances change based on learning from previous experience, is thought to play an important role in a species’ ability to successfully adapt to new environments and expand its geographic range. However, it is possible that causal cognition, the ability to understand relationships beyond their statistical covariations, could play a significant role in rapid range expansions by allowing one to learn faster by making better predictions about outcomes and by exerting more control over events. We aim to determine whether great-tailed grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus), a species that is rapidly expanding its geographic range, use causal inference and whether this ability relates to their behavioral flexibility (flexibility measured in these individuals by Logan et al. 2019: reversal learning of a color discrimination and solution switching on a puzzle box). We found that grackles showed no evidence of making causal inferences when given the opportunity to intervene on observed events using a touchscreen apparatus, and that performance on the causal cognition task did not correlate with behavioral flexibility measures. This could indicate that causal cognition is not implicated as a key factor involved in a rapid geographic range expansion, though we suggest further exploration of this hypothesis using larger sample sizes and multiple test paradigms before considering this a robust conclusion.