Artificial selection for schooling behaviour and its effects on associative learning abilities

Regina Vega-Trejo*, Annika Boussard, Lotta Wallander, Elisa Estival, Séverine D. Buechel, Alexander Kotrschal, Niclas Kolm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The evolution of collective behaviour has been proposed to have important effects on individual cognitive abilities. Yet, in what way they are related remains enigmatic. In this context, the 'distributed cognition' hypothesis suggests that reliance on other group members relaxes selection for individual cognitive abilities. Here, we tested how cognitive processes respond to evolutionary changes in collective motion using replicate lines of guppies (Poecilia reticulata) artificially selected for the degree of schooling behaviour (group polarization) with >15% difference in schooling propensity. We assessed associative learning in females of these selection lines in a series of cognitive assays: colour associative learning, reversal learning, social associative learning, and individual and collective spatial associative learning. We found that control females were faster than polarization-selected females at fulfilling a learning criterion only in the colour associative learning assay, but they were also less likely to reach a learning criterion in the individual spatial associative learning assay. Hence, although testing several cognitive domains, we found weak support for the distributed cognition hypothesis. We propose that any cognitive implications of selection for collective behaviour lie outside of the cognitive abilities included in food-motivated associative learning for visual and spatial cues.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb235093
JournalThe Journal of experimental biology
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2020


  • Cognition
  • Collective motion
  • Poeciliidae
  • Social behaviour


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