Abstract # 5829 Event # 35:

Scheduled for Saturday, September 13, 2014 03:30 PM-03:45 PM: Session 10 (Henry Oliver) Oral Presentation


VARIATION IN PERFORMANCE OF CAPUCHIN MONKEYS (CEBUS APELLA), RHESUS MACAQUES (MACACA MULATTA) AND CHILDREN (HOMO SAPIENS) IN A FORCED-CHOICE DECISION-MAKING PARADIGM

L. Pretot1,2
1Georgia State University, Language Research Center, Atlanta, Georgia 30303-5010, USA, 2Department of Psychology, Georgia State University
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     Although often overlooked in laboratory experiments, a species’ ecology may exert a profound influence on their behavior. In a previous study, cleaner fish (Labroides dimidiatus) outperformed capuchin monkeys and two ape species in a decision-making task that was ecologically relevant to fish, but not primates. In this task, subjects have to choose between an ephemeral option that will “leave” if not chosen first and a permanent option that is available no matter which option is chosen first. Here, we extended this to versions designed to be more relevant to primates. We first designed an explicitly social task where subjects chose between two humans (rather than two trays). Capuchins did not learn the task more efficiently (Fisher’s test, one-tailed, p >.05), whereas children performed better in the social task than in the original, non-social, task (one-tailed, p =.05). We then tested capuchins and rhesus macaques in a computerized version of the same task that allowed us to introduce a series of procedural modifications to explore which aspects of the original task made it difficult for the monkeys (e.g., subtle differences in food size, experimenter behavior, prepotent response). Overall, capuchins learned the task more effectively using the computerized procedure with these modifications than in the original test (two-tailed, p <.05). This research paradigm provides a template for cross-taxon comparative research and demonstrates the power that such procedures have for teasing apart the degree to which ecology and cognition influence decision-making.