Sophia Marie Quante
Department of Behavioural Biology
Institute of Neuro- and Behavioural Biology
D-48149 Münster, Germany
Tel.: +49 251 83-21004
Causes and consequences of individuality
Optimistic and pessimistic rodents – differences in ambiguous cue interpretation and their consequences for niche conformance in laboratory rats
The assessment of a cognitive bias, so the classification of individuals into optimists and pessimists based on their interpretation bias, has its origin in animal welfare research, where tests concerning decision-making under ambiguity are used to get information about the
affective state of an animal and how it perceives its environment. However, evidence is growing that the cognitive bias of an individual can also be considered a trait, as it seems to have a stable component as well. It is very likely that these stable individual differences in cognitive
bias are relevant for ecology, as animals need to take decisions every day, each of them having potential survival and fitness consequences.
In the first part of the project, the aim is to contribute to a comprehensive characterisation of optimists and pessimists. The examined question is if optimism and pessimism levels are linked to other individual characteristics. Therefore, rats are tested for their cognitive bias, as well as other individual traits (e.g., anxiety-like and exploration behaviour, laterality, playfulness) in multiple characterisation phases.
In the second part of the project, the focus is on ecological consequences of optimism and pessimism. The aim is to reveal differences between optimists and pessimists in their individual niche specialisation, more precisely in their niche conformance (i.e., their adjustment to an environment). For this purpose, two experiments are planned: one concentrating on niche conformance regarding an inanimate factor (predictable vs. unpredictable food availability), and the other examining niche conformance concerning the social environment (cage partner
with a matching vs. mismatching cognitive bias). In both experiments, home cage behaviour, hormone levels, and behaviour in tests for anxiety-like and exploratory behaviour will be used as outcome measures.