Abstract # 76:

Scheduled for Thursday, June 21, 2007 05:00 PM-07:00 PM: Session 7 (South Main Hall) Poster Presentation

Object Cues Improve Performance for Spatial Memory Tasks in Captive Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

J. Schaeffer1, J. L. Russell1, J. P. Taglialatela1 and W. D. Hopkins1,2
1Yerkes National Primate Research Center, 954 Gatewood Rd., Atlanta, GA 30329, USA, 2Agnes Scott College
     Spatial cognitive tasks in humans have shown sex differences in the strategies utilized to solve spatial memory tasks. Males exhibit successful performance when using only positional cues while females’ performance is improved when object cues are also available. In chimpanzees, studies have focused on spatial cognition using scale model based tasks in order to retrieve a food reward. This study tested spatial memory in four male and six female chimpanzees by using positional cues (Condition 1) or positional and object cues combined (Condition 2) to help find food hidden in one of four pipe feeders. The subject watched as one pipe feeder was baited and placed onto one of four bases. Three empty pipe feeders were then shown to the subject and placed on the remaining bases. Following a 10 minute delay the subject was given a stick to retrieve the food; the time it took the subject to successfully insert the stick into the correct pipe, insertion errors and whether they initially went to the correct pipe were recorded. The chimpanzees were significantly above chance (chance=25%) going to the correct pipe on their first attempt in Condition 2 [t(9)=2.62, p<0.05] but not Condition 1 [t(9)=0.84, p=0.42]. Although no significant sex differences were found, there was a trend for females to perform better on their first attempt for Condition 2 than Condition 1 (29.2% compared to 61.2%), whereas males’ performance was consistent across conditions (39.5% and 39.5% respectively). Preliminary data suggests that object cues improve chimpanzees’ performance during a spatial cognition task, particularly for females.