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Individual, Social, and Ecological Influences on Problem-Solving Abilities

Sarah Benson-Amram University of Wyoming October 15, 2018 As urban centers all over the world have grown, biologists have struggled to explain why some species can invade and thrive despite human-induced environmental change whereas others suffer often to the point of extinction. One potential explanation is that the evolution of advanced cognitive abilities has enabled some species to exhibit more flexible behavioral responses to anthropogenic disturbances. Empirical evidence for this hypothesis is lacking, however, as it is difficult both to assess cognition in wild animals and to standardize assessments of cognition across multiple species in differing environments. The main goals of my research program are: 1) to understand the selection pressures driving the evolution of intelligence, 2) to clarify how the expression of behavioral flexibility and other cognitive abilities changes depending on the individual’s personality, the presence and identity of conspecifics, and the ecological environment, and 3) to investigate how cognition might facilitate successful adaptation to human-altered environments. In this talk, I will touch upon all three of these areas of research. I will first discuss my work examining the evolution of brain size and problem-solving abilities in a large comparative study of zoo-housed carnivores. I will then describe results from our research examining cognitive abilities in wild and captive populations of two highly successful carnivores, the spotted hyena and the raccoon. Finally, I will briefly describe some current research in our lab examining the interaction between personality and problem-solving performance in the monogamous zebra finch. PRIME SPONSORS The Office of the Dean of Social Sciences Cotsen Institute of Archaeology The Human Behavior & Evolution Society ADDITIONAL SUPPORT Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Department of Communication The following is a presentation in the UCLA Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture Speaker Series. For more information on this speaker series, including a searchable archive of all previous presentations, please see BEC relies on the generosity of a variety of organizations and individuals. If you find this presentation valuable and would like to assist in advancing research and education in the evolutionary behavioral sciences, please see

Tags:Problem-Solving,Problem Solving Abilities,Ecological Influences

Ecology:   |  biodiversity  |  habitat  |  niche  |  niche construction  |  biome  |  biosphere  |  individual ecology  |  population ecology  |  ecosystem  |  keystone species
Pollution:   |  air pollution  |  light pollution  |  littering  |  noise  |  radioactive  |  water pollution
Sustainability:   |  social  |  economic  |  environment  |  organizations  |  sustainable development  |  sustainable life
Environment:   |  environmental education  |  recycling  |  environmental health  |  conservation  |  animals  |  forests  |  ecosystems  |  clean energy
Climate-change:   |  atmosphere  |  cfcs  |  greenhouse gases  |  NASA  |  glaciers  |  carbon emission  |  solar output