Abstract # 2344 Poster # 103:

Scheduled for Friday, June 20, 2008 05:00 PM-07:00 PM: Session 12 (Ball Rooms A and B) Poster Presentation

Imitation recognition in capuchin monkeys

A. Paukner, M. E. Huntsberry, P. F. Ferrari and S. J. Suomi
Laboratory of Comparative Ethology, NIH Animal Center, P.O. Box 529, Poolesville, MD 20837, USA
     Imitation recognition is based on the ability to conceive of a match between one’s own motor output and the visual input from another individual’s actions. Human infants appear to perceive being imitated as a form of social communication as indicated by preferential looking, smiling and contingency testing behaviors directed at an imitator. It is still an open question if and how other primates recognize when they are being imitated. Here we present data on imitation recognition in tufted capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella, N=10). In Experiment 1, capuchins interacted with an object while being faced by two experimenters. The imitator performed the same object-directed actions as the capuchins while the non-imitator performed non-matching actions, both acting in synchrony with the monkeys. In Experiment 2, while capuchins manipulated an object, both experimenters performed synchronous actions matching those of capuchins; however, one experimenter looked directly at the monkeys while the other looked away from the monkeys. Results indicate that capuchins looked significantly longer at the imitator than the non-imitator [t-test, a=0.05], but that gaze directions of experimenters did not significantly affect visual preferences of the monkeys. No social responses or contingency testing behaviors were observed. It appears that capuchins are equipped with a basic action-matching mechanism but that they do not attend to others’ attentional states, which suggests that being imitated is not understood as a communicative interaction.