Generalized Relational Matching by Guinea Baboons (Papio papio) in Two-by-Two-Item Analogy Problems


  • Fagot Joël
  • Thompson Roger K. R.

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Analogical reasoning is considered the hallmark of human reasoning, but some studies have demonstrated that language-and symbol-trained chimpanzees can also reason analogically. Despite the potential adaptive value of this ability, evidence from other studies strongly suggests that other nonhuman primates do not have this capacity for analogical reasoning. In our three experiments, 6 of 29 baboons acquired the ability to perform a relational matching-to-sample (RMTS) task in which pairs of shapes composed relational displays. Five of these 6 monkeys then transferred this ability to RMTS tasks using novel exemplars of identity (elements in a pair are the same) and nonidentity (elements in a pair are different) relations. This transfer occurred even on trials in which the incorrect pair shared an element with the sample pair with which it was being compared. The baboons retained this ability 12 months later. The findings from our study of symbol-naive monkeys indicate that although language and symbol training facilitate conceptual thinking in nonhuman primates, such training is not a prerequisite for analogical reasoning.

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