|Title||Representational format determines numerical competence in monkeys|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2011|
|Authors||Schmitt, V, Fischer, J|
|Keywords||2011-04-06, bootstrapping, mathematics, primates, psychology|
A range of animal species possess an evolutionarily ancient system for representing number, which provides the foundation for simple arithmetical operations such as addition and numerical comparisons. Surprisingly, non-human primates tested in ecologically, highly valid quantity discrimination tasks using edible items often show a relatively low performance, suggesting that stimulus salience interferes with rational decision making. Here we show that quantity discrimination was indeed significantly enhanced when monkeys were tested with inedible items compared with food items (84 versus 69% correct). More importantly, when monkeys were tested with food, but rewarded with other food items, the accuracy was equally high (86%). The results indicate that the internal representation of the stimuli, not their physical quality, determined performance. Reward replacement apparently facilitated representation of the food items as signifiers for other foods, which in turn supported a higher acuity in decision making.
Representational format determines numerical competence in monkeys
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