Simple questions on simple associations: regularity extraction in non-human primates


  • Yeaton Jeremy
  • Tosatto Laure
  • Fagot Joël
  • Grainger Jonathan
  • Rey Arnaud

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When human and non-human animals learn sequences, they manage to implicitly extract statistical regularities through associative learning mechanisms. In two experiments conducted with a non-human primate species (Guinea baboons, Papio papio ), we addressed simple questions on the learning of simple AB associations appearing in longer noisy sequences. Using a serial reaction time task, we manipulated the position of AB within the sequence, such that it could be either fixed (by appearing always at the beginning, middle, or end of a four-element sequence; Experiment 1) or variable (Experiment 2). We also tested the effect of sequence length in Experiment 2 by comparing the performance on AB when it was presented at a variable position within a sequence of four or five elements. The slope of RTs from A to B was taken for each condition as a measurement of learning rate. While all conditions differed significantly from a no-regularity baseline, we found strong evidence that the learning rate did not differ between the conditions. These results indicate that regularity extraction is not impacted by the position of the regularity within a sequence and by the length of the sequence. These data provide novel general empirical constraints for modeling associative mechanisms in sequence learning.

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