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Chapter One - Bridging The Gap Between Cross-Taxon And Within-Species Analyses Of Behavioral Innovations In Birds: Making Sense Of Discrepant Cognition–Innovation Relationships And The Role Of Motor Diversity

A. Griffin, D. Guez
Published 2016 · Psychology

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Behavioral innovations, the invention of new behaviors or the use of preexisting ones in new contexts, are increasingly considered an essential source of behavioral plasticity, yet the mechanisms by which they arise are poorly understood. In recent years, much emphasis has been placed on the role of cognition. Here, we review briefly key findings from large-scale comparative research and, in more detail, those from experimental work on innovation. We draw attention to the high degree of inconsistency among empirical findings relating interindividual variation in innovativeness to interindividual variation in learning performance. We go on to propose a model that reconciles the possible (but perhaps controversial) existence of positive associations between cognition and innovation at the cross-taxon level with inconsistent associations at the within-species level. A key component of the model is the possibility that the association between cognition (ie, brain size) and innovativeness is not causal. Rather, it arises as a consequence of correlated evolution because both cognition and diet generalism evolve in response to environmental variability. Furthermore, motor diversity constitutes a proximate link between diet generalism and innovativeness.
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