Beyond a Unitary Construct: Dissecting Stopping Behaviour in Two Bird Species

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The ability to stop behaviour is essential for adapting to changes in the environment, a principle that holds true across various species. While traditionally considered a unitary psychological construct, recent studies indicate that this ability is multifaceted. Our research evaluates this multifaceted nature using three tasks that measure stopping in different contexts in two related gull species: herring gulls ( Larus argentatus ) and lesser black-backed gulls ( L. fuscus ). These species were selected for their distinct migration and foraging strategies, offering a unique lens through which to examine behavioural adaptations. Across tasks and species, we conceptualised stopping as a race between a go and a stop runner, and predicted correlations based on the type of stop stimulus, the relative timing of the go and the stop stimuli, and the type of action that needed to be stopped. We found correlations between measures of ‘going’ across tasks, but there was less consistency in measures of ‘stopping’. Furthermore, we observed significant differences in ‘going’ and ‘stopping’ behaviours that were specific to each species, which may be linked to their migration and foraging strategies. These findings highlight the importance of considering the multifaceted nature of stopping in evolutionary and behavioural studies.

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