Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Monkeys' Ability To Reflect On Their Thoughts May Have Implications For Infants, Autistic Children

Date:
April 20, 2007
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
A new study shows that monkeys have the ability to reflect about their thoughts and to assess their performance. In the future, the nonverbal tests used in this and other experiments on animal cognition can be adapted to study cognitive abilities of infants and autistic children.

The test used touch-screen technology and a multiple-choice format. Six novel photographs were presented at the beginning of each trial, one at a time. One photograph was selected at random and then displayed simultaneously with EIGHT novel photographs. The monkey's task was to select the photograph that appeared at the beginning of the trial. The monkey then evaluated the accuracy of its choice by selecting a high and a low-risk icon presented on the screen. It earned a large reward if it selected the high-risk icon after a correct response (THREE tokens dropped into a bank displayed on the video monitor)
Credit: Herbert Terrace-Columbia University

New research from Columbia's Primate Cognition Laboratory has demonstrated for the first time that monkeys could acquire meta-cognitive skills: the ability to reflect about their thoughts and to assess their performance.

Related Articles


The study was a collaborative effort between Herbert Terrace, Columbia professor of psychology & psychiatry, and director of its Primate Cognition Laboratory, and two graduate students, Lisa Son -- now professor of psychology at Barnard College -- and UCLA postdoctoral researcher Nate Kornell.

The study, which appears in the January issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, was designed to show that a monkey could express its confidence in its answers to multiple-choice questions about its memory based on the amount of imaginary currency it was willing to wager. Their experiment was derived from the observation that children often make pretend bets to assert that they know the answer to some question. According to Son, "the ability to reflect on one's knowledge has always been thought of as exclusively human. We designed a task to determine if a non-human primate could similarly learn to express its confidence about its knowledge by making large or small wagers."

In the experiment, two monkeys were trained to play a video game that would test their ability to remember a particular photograph while also allowing them to make a large or a small bet. Ultimately, this wager would reflect the monkey's perception of their memory accuracy.

The test used touch-screen technology and a multiple-choice format. Six novel photographs were presented at the beginning of each trial, one at a time. One photograph was selected at random and then displayed simultaneously with 8 novel photographs. The monkey's task was to select the photograph that appeared at the beginning of the trial. The monkey then evaluated the accuracy of its choice by selecting a high and a low-risk icon presented on the screen. It earned a large reward if it selected the high-risk icon after a correct response (3 tokens dropped into a bank displayed on the video monitor).

Choosing the high-risk icon following an incorrect response resulted in the loss of 3 tokens. Low risk bets were always followed by a small reward (a gain of 1 token). When the monkey accumulated enough tokens, it was rewarded with food. The results demonstrated that with the monkeys, there was a strong correlation between high-risk bets and correct responses and between low-risk bets and incorrect responses.

Terrace argues that, "the pattern of the monkeys' bets provided clear evidence of their ability to engage in meta-cognition, an ability that is all the more remarkable because monkeys lack language." But the results may have further reaching implications as well. Terrace notes "our results are of general interest because non-verbal tests of the type used in this and other experiments on animal cognition can be adapted to study cognitive abilities of infants and autistic children."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Monkeys' Ability To Reflect On Their Thoughts May Have Implications For Infants, Autistic Children." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 April 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070420133813.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2007, April 20). Monkeys' Ability To Reflect On Their Thoughts May Have Implications For Infants, Autistic Children. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070420133813.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Monkeys' Ability To Reflect On Their Thoughts May Have Implications For Infants, Autistic Children." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070420133813.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins