Repeated testing does not confound cognitive performance in the Western Australian magpie (Cracticus tibicen dorsalis)

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Abstract

A robust understanding of cognitive variation at the individual level is essential to understand selection for and against cognitive traits. Studies of animal cognition often assume that within-individual performance is highly consistent. When repeated tests of individuals have been conducted, the effects of test order (the overall sequence in which different tests are conducted) and test number (the ordinal number indicating when a specific test falls within a sequence)-in particular the potential for individual performance to improve with repeated testing-have received limited attention. In our study, we investigated test order and test number effects on individual performance in three inhibitory control tests in Western Australian magpies (Cracticus tibicen dorsalis). We presented adult magpies with three novel inhibitory control tasks (detour-reaching apparatuses) in random order to test whether experience of cognitive testing and the order in which the apparatuses were presented were predictors of cognitive performance. We found that neither test number nor test order had an effect on cognitive performance of individual magpies when presenting different variants of inhibitory control tasks. This suggests that repeated testing of the same cognitive trait, using causally identical but visually distinct cognitive tasks, does not confound cognitive performance. We recommend that repeated testing effects of cognitive performance in other species be studied to broadly determine the validity of repeated testing in animal cognition studies.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalAnimal Cognition
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Oct 2022

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