Multiple contest experiences interact to influence each other's effect on subsequent contest decisions in a mangrove killifish

Yuying Hsu*, Yu Yun Huang, Ya Ting Wu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Many animals modify behavioural decisions based on information they have previously acquired. Contest behaviour is often affected by previous contest experiences: individuals behave more and less aggressively after a victory and defeat, respectively (winner/loser effect). Individuals in the field sometimes encounter multiple competitors in quick succession, but whether these experiences interact to influence each other's importance is unclear. We tested five hypotheses for experience interaction (no interaction, retroactive interference, proactive interaction, reinforcement and diminishing returns) using Kryptolebias marmoratus. Focal individuals were paired up with opponents having the same 1-month contest outcome (1 month before the experiment), as this difference in actual or perceived fighting ability has been shown to affect the fish's response to new experiences. We gave the focal individual of a pair a winning or losing experience on day 1. Then both fish of the pair received the same winning, losing or no-contest experience on day 2. Then we organised fights between the two. The effect of a day-1 losing experience did depend on the fish's actual or perceived fighting ability: one-month losers readily showed loser effects from the day-1 losing experience, irrespective of the day-2 experience (i.e. no interaction between day-1 and day-2 experiences). One-month winners, however, only showed loser effects from a day-1 losing experience when the day-2 experience was also a loss (i.e. reinforcement). Day-1 winning experiences did not interact with day-2 experiences in 1-month losers or winners. Therefore, multiple experiences sometimes reinforce each other, but how they combine to influence behaviour depends on an individual's actual or perceived fighting ability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-175
Number of pages11
JournalAnimal Cognition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Mar


  • Animal contest
  • Information integration
  • Kryptolebias marmoratus
  • Mangrove killifish
  • Winner/loser effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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