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Monkeys show sophisticated learning abilities

l but the monkeys needed to ignore their physical locations and touch them in the correct order. When the researchers began their study, they gave the monkeys three- and four-image lists, and once the monkeys showed proficiency in these lists, graduated to seven-image lists.

Finally, the monkeys were asked to order pairs of images originally learned in the same list, and also pairs that contained items from two different lists.

The monkeys showed very high abilities to learn and manage four, seven-item lists, found the researchers. In addition, the monkeys were able to order pairs that had come from the same list and pairs that had come from different lists with similar high accuracy, responding correctly to 94 percent and 91 percent of these trials respectively. Such high performance indicates that the researchers have not yet reached the limits of the animals' abilities, said Brannon.

"It was only an initial guess on our part that seven-item lists would be particularly challenging, but it didn't turn out be all that challenging, and it seems possible that we could test longer lists." Importantly, the researchers observed that the monkeys' learning process exhibited the same basic properties as human learning.

"For example, we found that the monkeys were learning each additional new list much quicker than they learned their first list within any given list length," said Brannon. "So, they weren't just learning about the particular photographs within a sequence; they were learning a strategy of how to learn. And that's what we call expertise." Also, said Brannon, in the paired imaging tests, the monkeys showed the ability to apply their knowledge in a flexible way as humans do.

"In learning the lists, they had not learned anything about the relationship between picture A from list 1 and picture C from list 4," said Brannon. "And yet, their performance was pretty much indistinguishable on pairs that were within one list, versus pa
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Contact: Dennis Meredith
dennis.meredith@duke.edu
919-681-8054
Duke University
22-Jan-2003


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