Questioning the developmental effects of group size on cognitive abilities
Australian magpies living in larger social groups learned quicker and made fewer errors across four cognitive tasks compared with birds living in smaller social groups, and this pattern may be driven by a developmental effect associated with the cognitive demands of living in larger groups. While Smulders (2018, Learning and Behavior, 1–2, doi:10.3758/s13420-018-0335-0) questioned whether this group size–cognitive performance pattern was driven by motivation rather than cognitive abilities, we question whether there is truly evidence of a developmental effect and whether the relationship between group size and cognitive performance can be explained in other ways. We highlight potential alternative explanations for the relationship between group size and cognitive performance and highlight some of the theoretical issues underlying the developmental effects of group size on cognitive abilities.
KeywordsCognitive ecology Comparative cognition Social learning
This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC), the Department of Psychology at the University of Alberta, and a Start-up Grant from the Faculty of Science at the University of Alberta.
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