Variation in common personality traits, such as boldness or exploration, is often associated with risk–reward trade–offs and behavioural flexibility. To date, only a few studies have examined the effects of consistent behavioural traits on both learning and cognition. We investigated whether certain personality traits (‘exploration’ and ‘sociability’) of individuals were related to cognitive performance, learning flexibility and learning style in a social ungulate species, the goat (Capra hircus). We also investigated whether a preference for feature cues rather than impaired learning abilities can explain performance variation in a visual discrimination task. We found that personality scores were consistent across time and context. Less explorative goats performed better in a non-associative cognitive task, in which subjects had to follow the trajectory of a hidden object (i.e. testing their ability for object permanence). We also found that less sociable subjects performed better compared to more sociable goats in a visual discrimination task. Good visual learning performance was associated with a preference for feature cues, indicating personality-dependent learning strategies in goats. Our results suggest that personality traits predict the outcome in visual discrimination and non-associative cognitive tasks in goats and that impaired performance in a visual discrimination tasks does not necessarily imply impaired learning capacities, but rather can be explained by a varying preference for feature cues.
Nawroth, Prentice, McElligott (2016) Individual personality differences in goats predict their performance in visual learning and non-associative cognitive tasks. Behavioural Processes, available online. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2016.08.001