Abstract # 109:

Scheduled for Saturday, August 26, 2017 02:00 PM-02:15 PM: (National Ballroom Salon A) Oral Presentation


A. Paukner1 and E. M. Slonecker1,2
1Laboratory of Comparative Ethology, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIH Animal Center, Poolesville, MD 20837, USA, 2Department of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California Irvine, Irvine, California
     Recent studies suggest that adult rhesus macaques interpret actions as goal-directed – that is, they expect agents to act in an efficient manner to achieve a goal. In humans, this teleological stance emerges around 12 months old. Is goal understanding foundational to monkeys’ action understanding and therefore an early-emerging cognitive achievement? To test when goal-directed action understanding develops, we familiarized 27 six-month-old infant rhesus macaques (16 female) with a video in which a familiar caretaker reached over an obstacle to grasp a toy. To check whether the mere presence of the barrier affected infants, in the control condition the caretaker executed the same reach and grasp action, but the obstacle was situated behind the toy. Following familiarization, the obstacle was removed and infants saw the caretaker reach and grasp the toy i. in a straight line, or ii. following the same curvilinear path that was taken to avoid the obstacle. Using Tobii eyetracking technology, we measured the total duration of fixations to both test events. Results show that in the experimental condition, infants looked significantly longer at the curvilinear trajectory than the straight trajectory (t(26)=3.04, p=0.005), but they did not discriminate between the two types of reaches in the control condition (t(26)=-0.62, p=0.54). These results suggest that for rhesus macaques, goal detection and understanding emerge early in life and may be foundational for intentional understanding.