The Dynamics of Chunking in Humans (Homo sapiens) and Guinea baboons (Papio papio)


  • Tosatto Laure
  • Fagot Joël
  • Rey Arnaud


  • Comparative cognition
  • Chunking
  • Sequence learning

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Chunking is an important cognitive process allowing the compression of information in short-term memory. The aim of this study is to compare the dynamics of chunking during the learning of a visuo-motor sequence in humans (Homo sapiens) and Guinea baboons (Papio papio). We duplicated in humans an experimental paradigm that has been used previously in baboons. On each trial, human participants had to point to a moving target on a touch screen. The experiment involved the repetition of the same sequence of 9-items over a thousand trials. To reproduce as much as possible the conditions under which baboons performed the task, human participants were tested at their own pace. Results revealed that baboons and humans shared similar chunking dynamics: in both species, the sequence was initially parsed into small chunks that became longer and fewer with practice through two reorganization mechanisms (recombinations and concatenations). Differences were also observed regarding the global decrease in response times that was faster and more pronounced in humans compared to baboons. Analyses of these similarities and differences provide new empirical evidence for understanding the general properties of chunking mechanisms in sequence learning and its evolution across species.

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