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The impact of learning opportunities on the development of learning and decision making: an experiment with passerine birds

Citation

Rojas-Ferrer, Isabel; Morand-Ferron, Julie (2020), The impact of learning opportunities on the development of learning and decision making: an experiment with passerine birds, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.9w0vt4bbn

Abstract

Learning abilities have been shown to be influenced by the developmental context, namely through experiments that imposed severe nutritional and/or environmental constraints (i.e. lack of enrichment). In contrast, we know little on the impact of opportunities for learning on the development of cognition in animals, despite that such opportunities are known to influence human cognitive development. We exposed young zebra finches (Taenopygia guttata) (n=26) to one of three experimental conditions, i.e. an environment where (i) the presence of food was predicted by one colour cue (associative learning), (ii) a combination of two-colour cues (conditional learning), or (iii) colour cues were non-informative (control). After conducting two different discrimination tasks, our results show that experience with predictive cues can cause increased choice accuracy and decision-making speed. Our first learning task showed that individuals in the associative treatment outperformed the control treatment, while task 2 showed that individuals in the conditional treatment shad shorter latencies when making choices compared to the control treatment. We found no support for a speed-accuracy trade-off. This dataset provides a rare longitudinal and experimental examination of the effect of predictive vs non-predictive cues during development on the cognition of adult animals.

Methods

(1) Experience2020: Dataset on 23 (N=23) juvenile zebra finches randomly assorted into three different experimental conditions i.e. an environment where (i) the presence of food was predicted by one colour cue (associative learning), (ii) a combination of two-colour cues (conditional learning), or (iii) colour cues were non-informative (control). Individuals experienced ~500 choices each with a simple discrimination task between a rewarding and non-rewarding feeder. Data includes: individual bird information, treatment, trial number, latency to choose, and correct choice.  

(2) Learning2020: Dataset on 22 (N=22) zebra finches randomly assorted into three different experimental conditions i.e. an environment where (i) the presence of food was predicted by one colour cue (associative learning), (ii) a combination of two-colour cues (conditional learning), or (iii) colour cues were non-informative (control). Individuals experienced ~50 choices for two different discrimination tasks. Data includes: individual bird information, treatment, trial number, latency to choose, and correct choice.  

Funding

National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Award: 435596-2013

Human Frontiers Science Program, Award: RGP0006/2015