Towards understanding covariation between cognition and personality: An example in guinea pigs — ASN Events

Towards understanding covariation between cognition and personality: An example in guinea pigs (#135)

Anja Guenther 1 , Vera Brust 2
  1. Department of Animal Behaviour, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany
  2. Department of Behavioural Biology, University of Osnabrueck, Osnabrueck, Germany

Individuals within species differ consistently in their behaviour. These individual differences often represent adaptations shaped by selection. Recently, researchers have started to apply the same logic to individual differences in cognitive traits, leading to the suggestion that variation in personality and cognition should covary (Sih & Del Giudice, 2012). Some attempts have been made to demonstrate such covariation between personality and cognition, but they often focused on the relationship between a single repeatable personality trait (e.g. boldness) and cognitive performance on a single task. Thereby, studies have fallen short of demonstrating temporal and contextual consistency, a necessary prerequisite for the study of consistent individual differences. To establish a broader relationship between personality and cognition, a crucial step is to determine to which degree cognitive abilities are consistent across contexts and over time (Griffin et al. 2015).

To determine such contextual and temporal consistency, twenty-four guinea pigs were tested in a battery of twelve cognitive tests. Four tests each were conducted to test problem solving ability, individual association learning and social learning. We assessed repeatability within each category and contextual consistency between categories. First results show that problem-solving ability is repeatable over time, but not correlated to individual associative learning ability. In addition, five personality traits were measured to establish a possible link between cognition and personality. Individuals that behave consistently more social towards conspecifics solved fewer problems and needed consistently longer in individual association learning tasks. These data demonstrate for the first time individual consistency in cognitive abilities and a link between inter-individual variation in multiple personality traits and multiple cognitive traits.

  1. Sih, A., & Del Giudice, M. (2012). Linking behavioural syndromes and cognition: A behavioural ecology perspective. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences, 367, 2762–2772.
  2. Griffin, A.S.; Guillette, L.M & Healy, S.D. in press. Cognition and personality: an analysis of an emerging field. Trends in Ecology and Evolution