The winner and loser effect: Integrating multiple experiences

Yuying Hsu*, Larry L. Wolf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

259 Citations (Scopus)


An important question in state-dependent behaviour is how multiple influences on state are integrated to determine current behaviour. Aggressive behaviour is known to be affected by a prior contest experience. Nevertheless, whether and how multiple prior fighting experiences are integrated into a fighting decision remain unexplored. In this study, individuals of Rivulus marmoratus (Cyprinodontidae), a hermaphroditic fish, were given different combinations of two prior fighting experiences to investigate: (1) the effect of penultimate experiences on the probability of winning a subsequent contest; (2) the relative effect of a recent win and loss; and (3) whether the effect of a winning experience was as short lived as observed in other species. Penultimate and recent fighting experiences were given to the test fish approximately 48 and 24 h prior to the dyadic contests, respectively. From the results of the five types of contests staged, we conclude that: (t) penultimate fighting experiences had a significant effect on the probability of winning a subsequent contest; (2) a more recent experience had a more pronounced effect than an earlier experience, which suggested that the effect of a fighting experience would decay and/or the effect of a recent experience would interfere with the effect of an earlier experience; (3) no asymmetric effect between a winning experience and a losing experience was detected; and (4) the effect of both a winning and a losing experience lasted for at least 48 h in R. marmoratus which was the maximum time tested in these experiments. The possible reasons for the differences in results among studies of experience effects on contest outcomes are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)903-910
Number of pages8
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1999 Apr
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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