Information ecology theory predicts that prior experience influences current behaviour, even if the information is acquired under a different context. However, when individuals are tested to quantify personality, cognition, or stress, we usually assume that the novelty of the test is consistent among individuals. Surprisingly, this ‘gambit of prior experience’ has rarely been explored. Therefore, here we make use of a wild population of great tits (Parus major) to test if prior experience of handling and captivity influences common measures of exploration (open field tests in two novel contexts: room and cage arenas), social response (simulated using a mirror), and behavioural stress (breathing rate). We found that birds with prior experience of captivity (caught previously for unrelated learning and foraging experiments) were more exploratory, but this depended on age: exploration and captivity experience (in terms of both absolute binary experience and the length of time spent in captivity) were associated more strongly in young (first-winter) birds than in adults. However, there was no association of prior experience of captivity with social response and breathing rate, and nor did the measures of exploration correlate. Together our results suggest that re-testing of individuals requires careful consideration, particularly for younger birds, and previous experiences can carry over and affect behaviours differently.
- 1181 Ekologi, evolutionsbiologi