University of Oulu

Chow, P. K. Y., Lehtonen, T. K., Näreaho, V., & Loukola, O. J. (2022). Prior associations affect bumblebees’ generalization performance in a tool-selection task. iScience, 25(11), 105466.

Prior associations affect bumblebees’ generalization performance in a tool-selection task

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Author: Chow, Pizza Ka Yee1,2; Lehtonen, Topi K.1,3; Näreaho, Ville1;
Organizations: 1Cognitive Ecology Research Group, Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2School of Psychology, University of Chester, Chester, UK
3Natural Resources Institute Finland, Paavo Havaksen tie 3, 90570 Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2.1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2022
Publish Date: 2023-06-05


A small brain and short life allegedly limit cognitive abilities. Our view of invertebrate cognition may also be biased by the choice of experimental stimuli. Here, the stimuli (color) pairs used in the match-to-sample tasks affected the performance of buff-tailed bumblebees (Bombus terrestris). We trained the bees to roll a tool, a ball, to a goal that matched its color. Bees trained with a yellow-and-orange/red stimuli pair took more training bouts to reach our color-matching criterion than those trained with a blue-and-yellow stimuli pair. When assessing the bees’ concept learning ability in a transfer test with a novel color, the bees trained with blue and yellow (novel color: orange/red) were highly successful, the bees trained with blue and orange/red (novel color: yellow) did not differ from random, and those trained with yellow and orange/red (novel color: blue) failed the test. These results highlight that stimulus salience can affect our conclusions on test subjects’ cognitive ability. Therefore, we encourage paying attention to stimulus salience (among other factors) when assessing the cognition of invertebrates.

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Series: iScience
ISSN: 2589-0042
ISSN-E: 2589-0042
ISSN-L: 2589-0042
Volume: 25
Issue: 11
Article number: 105466
DOI: 10.1016/j.isci.2022.105466
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: This work was supported by the Academy of Finland (grant number 309995) and Kone Foundation (grant number 202010852); two grants to O.J.L.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 309995
Detailed Information: 309995 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2022 The Authors. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (