Learning and decision-making in small mammals

Bank vole in Maze
Photo: V. Mazza

Patterns of individual differences in cognition have been studied systematically in the last decade, but causes and consequences of this variation are still largely unclear. A recent hypothesis suggests that one predictor of individual variation in cognition is animal personality, and specifically that personality types are linked to cognitive strategies through a speed–accuracy trade-off (Carere & Locurto 2011; Sih & Del Giudice 2012).

In this project we test specific predictions of this hypothesis, measuring individual differences in learning speed and flexibility of small mammals, along with decision-making and personality traits exploration, activity and boldness.

We combine laboratory tests with controlled experiments under natural and semi-natural conditions, adopting established methodologies from personality research as well as developing suitable protocols to test individuals’ decision-making in ecologically-relevant dimensions.

Bank vole in Maze
Photo: V. Mazza

Publications

Mazza V, Eccard JA, Zaccaroni M, Jacob J, Dammhahn M (2018) The fast and the flexible: cognitive style drives individual variation in cognition in a small mammal. Animal Behaviour 137(1). doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2018.01.011

Mazza V, Jacob J, Dammhahn M, Zaccaroni M, Eccard JA (2019) Individual variation in cognitive style reflects foraging and anti-predator strategies in a small mammal. Scientific Reports 9:10157. doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-46582-1

Mazza V, Dammhahn M, Eccard JA, Palme R, Zaccaroni M, Jacob J (2019) Coping with style: individual differences in responses to environmental variation. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology 73:142. doi.org/10.1007/s00265-019-2760-2