Does personality influence learning? A case study in an invasive lizard
Learning is a change in state resulting from new experiences enabling behavioural responses to be adjusted in alignment with external cues. Individuals differ in the speed and accuracy at which they learn. Personality has been postulated as being a major influence on learning ability in terms of attention and encounter rates of environmental cues. This link forms the basis of the cognitive style hypothesis (CSH), predicting that an individual’s cognitive style will occur along a fast–slow behavioural gradient. Fast types are characterised as being active, neophilic, and bold individuals who sample their environment rapidly, yet superficially, enabling learning to occur at a higher speed, but at the cost of accuracy. Slow types have the opposite suite of personality traits resulting in them being more accurate flexible learners. Greater level of learning flexibility is thought to help promote invasions success. Here, we test the predictions of the CSH in an invasive lizard (Lampropholis delicata) to determine if personality dictates learning performance in a two-phase associative task. Results indicated that the delicate skink was capable of learning an associative task but only provided partial support for the CSH. Personality was found to influence learning accuracy, however, the direction of that relationship was opposite to that predicted. Instead, fast lizards made fewer mistakes when learning to associate a colour to a goal. These findings highlight the need to further investigate the CSH across taxa and consider its potential as an underlying mechanism of the invasion process.
Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00442-017-3975-4
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