Original Paper

Animal Cognition

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 259-266

Social learning and innovation are positively correlated in pigeons (Columba livia)

  • Julie BouchardAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, McGill University
  • , William GoodyerAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, McGill University
  • , Louis LefebvreAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, McGill University Email author 

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When animals show both frequent innovation and fast social learning, new behaviours can spread more rapidly through populations and potentially increase rates of natural selection and speciation, as proposed by A.C. Wilson in his behavioural drive hypothesis. Comparative work on primates suggests that more innovative species also show more social learning. In this study, we look at intra-specific variation in innovation and social learning in captive wild-caught pigeons. Performances on an innovative problem-solving task and a social learning task are positively correlated in 42 individuals. The correlation remains significant when the effects of neophobia on the two abilities are removed. Neither sex nor dominance rank are associated with performance on the two tasks. Free-flying flocks of urban pigeons are able to solve the innovative food-finding problem used on captive birds, demonstrating it is within the range of their natural capacities. Taken together with the comparative literature, the positive correlation between innovation and social learning suggests that the two abilities are not traded-off.


Social learning Innovation Pigeons