Simultaneous learning of directional and non-directional stimulus relations in baboons (Papio papio)


  • Chartier Thomas
  • Fagot Joël


  • Associative symmetry
  • Directionality
  • Stimulus equivalence
  • Baboons
  • Primate cognition

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While humans exposed to a sequential stimulus pairing A-B are commonly assumed to form a bidirectional mental relation between A and B, evidence that non-human animals can do so is limited. Careful examination of the animal literature suggests possible improvements in the test procedures used to probe such effects, notably measuring transfer effects on the learning of B-A pairings, rather than direct recall of A upon cuing with B. We developed such an experimental design and tested 20 Guinea baboons ( Papio papio ). Two pairings of visual shapes were trained (A1-B1, A2-B2) and testing was conducted in a reversed order, either with conserved pairings (B1-A1, B2-A2) or broken ones (B1-A2, B2-A1). We found baboons’ immediate test performance to be above chance level for conserved pairings and below chance level for broken ones. Moreover, baboons needed less trials to learn conserved pairings compared to broken ones. These effects were apparent for both pairings on average, and separately for the best learned pairing. Baboons’ responding on B-A trials was thus influenced by their previous A-B training. Performance level at the onset of testing, however, suggests that baboons did not respond in full accordance with the hypothesis of bidirectionality. To account for these data, we suggest that two competing types of relations were concomitantly encoded: a directional relation between A and B, which retains the sequential order experienced, and a non-directional relation, which retains only the co-occurrence of events, not their temporal order.

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