Does trappability and self-selection influence cognitive performance?

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Recent research has highlighted how trappability and self-selection-the processes by which individuals with particular traits may be more likely to be caught or to participate in experiments-may be sources of bias in studies of animal behaviour and cognition. It is crucial to determine whether such biases exist, and if they do, what effect they have on results. In this study, we investigated if trappability (quantified through 'ringing status'-whether or not a bird had been trapped for ringing) and self-selection are sources of bias in a series of associative learning experiments spanning 5 years in the Western Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen dorsalis). We found no evidence of self-selection, with no biases in task participation associated with sex, age, group size or ringing status. In addition, we found that there was no effect of trappability on cognitive performance. These findings give us confidence in the results generated in the animal cognition literature and add to a growing body of literature seeking to determine potential sources of bias in studies of animal behaviour, and how they influence the generalizability and reproducibility of findings.
Original languageEnglish
Article number220473
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2022


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