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Are there Metacognitivists in the Fox Hole? A Preliminary Test of Information Seeking in an Arctic Fox (Vulpes lagopus)

Psychology Department, Oakland University, Rochester, MI 48309, USA
Animal Care, The Creature Conservancy, Ann Arbor, MI 48103, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Behav. Sci. 2020, 10(5), 81;
Received: 28 March 2020 / Revised: 22 April 2020 / Accepted: 23 April 2020 / Published: 26 April 2020
Over the last two decades, evidence has accrued that at least some nonhuman animals possess metacognitive abilities. However, of the carnivores, only domestic dogs have been tested. Although rarely represented in the psychological literature, foxes are good candidates for metacognition given that they cache their food. Two experiments assessed metacognition in one male arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) for the first time. An information-seeking paradigm was used, in which the subject had the opportunity to discover which compartment was baited before making a choice by looking through a transparent window in the apparatus. In the first experiment, choice accuracy during seen trials was equal to choice accuracy on unseen trials. Importantly, there was no significant difference between the subject’s looking behavior on seen versus unseen trials. In the second experiment, with chance probabilities reduced, the subject’s choice accuracy on both seen and unseen trials was below chance. The subject did not exhibit looking behavior in any of the trials. Latencies to choose were not influenced by whether he witnessed baiting. Although we did not obtain evidence of metacognition in our tests of a single subject, we maintain that foxes may be good candidates for further tests using similar methodologies to those introduced here. View Full-Text
Keywords: arctic fox; information seeking; metacognition; carnivore arctic fox; information seeking; metacognition; carnivore
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Eaton, T.; Billette, P.; Vonk, J. Are there Metacognitivists in the Fox Hole? A Preliminary Test of Information Seeking in an Arctic Fox (Vulpes lagopus). Behav. Sci. 2020, 10, 81.

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