Problem solving in animals: proposal for an ontogenetic perspective

Rowell, Misha K., Pillay, Neville, and Rymer, Tasmin L. (2021) Problem solving in animals: proposal for an ontogenetic perspective. Animals, 11 (3). 866. p. 866.

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Problem solving, the act of overcoming an obstacle to obtain an incentive, has been studied in a wide variety of taxa, and is often based on simple strategies such as trial-and-error learning, instead of higher-order cognitive processes, such as insight. There are large variations in problem solving abilities between species, populations and individuals, and this variation could arise due to differences in development, and other intrinsic (genetic, neuroendocrine and aging) and extrinsic (environmental) factors. However, experimental studies investigating the ontogeny of problem solving are lacking. Here, we provide a comprehensive review of problem solving from an ontogenetic perspective. The focus is to highlight aspects of problem solving that have been overlooked in the current literature, and highlight why developmental influences of problem-solving ability are particularly important avenues for future investigation. We argue that the ultimate outcome of solving a problem is underpinned by interacting cognitive, physiological and behavioural components, all of which are affected by ontogenetic factors. We emphasise that, due to the large number of confounding ontogenetic influences, an individual-centric approach is important for a full understanding of the development of problem solving.

Item ID: 67605
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2076-2615
Keywords: behavioural flexibility; cognition; development; individual; innovation; ontogeny
Copyright Information: Copyright: © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (
Funders: Australian Government Research Training Program, James Cook University (JCU)
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2021 23:54
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3109 Zoology > 310901 Animal behaviour @ 70%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3109 Zoology > 310914 Vertebrate biology @ 30%
SEO Codes: 28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280102 Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences @ 100%
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