Abstract # 209:

Scheduled for Monday, September 19, 2011 08:30 AM-08:45 AM: Session 26 (Meeting Room 410) Oral Presentation


PRELIMINARY EVIDENCE THAT CONSPECIFIC ACCESS INFLUENCES CHIMPANZEE (PAN TROGLODYTES) PERFORMANCE ON A COMPUTERIZED SEQUENCING TASK

K. E. Wagner and S. R. Ross
Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois 60614, USA
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For gregarious primates in captive habitats, separation from the social group may carry special implications with regard to behavior and physiological activation. The use of such temporary isolation as a common context for cognitive research evinces the need to consider this factor as a potential influence on test performance. We examined performance on a computerized sequencing task in a subset of chimpanzee subjects (N=2) tested in two alternating contexts: in a social isolation phase, subjects had visual but no physical contact with groupmates during testing; in a free access phase, subjects and groupmates had constant access to each other, the computer interface and the food reward dispenser. Both subjects exhibited higher overall performance in the free access protocol (S1: F(1,25)=10.08, p=0.004; S2: F(1,27)=4.52, p=0.04). A complementary analysis indicated that the arousal-correlate rough-scratching was related to access-phase in a subject-specific way: while the dominant subject showed no differences in scratching between conditions (F(1,32)=0.004, p=0.9), the submissive subject exhibited a two-fold decrease in the free social access protocol (F(1,11)=12.05, p=0.005). While additional validation among a larger sample must be pursued, these preliminary results suggest that 1) constant conspecific access during cognitive testing may support increased performance potentially by suppressing arousal; and 2) individual social status and disposition may robustly influence the behavioral expression of arousal in testing contexts.