Do apes know that they can be wrong?

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany.
Animal Cognition (Impact Factor: 2.58). 03/2010; 13(5):689-700. DOI: 10.1007/s10071-010-0317-x
Source: PubMed


When confronted with uncertain or incomplete information in decision-making situations, monkeys and apes opt for either escaping the situation or seeking additional information. These responses have been interpreted as evidence of metacognitive abilities. However, this interpretation has been challenged. On the one hand, studies using the information-seeking paradigm have been criticized because subjects may simply engage in a search for information routine (e.g., search until spot the reward) without any metacognitive involvement. On the other hand, studies using the escape response paradigm have been criticized because subjects may not recognize their own state of uncertainty but have learned to use the escape response in the presence of certain stimuli configurations that create uncertainty. The current study attempted to address these two criticisms by presenting great apes (seven gorillas, eight chimpanzees, four bonobos, seven orangutans) with a seeking information task whose basic procedure consisted of presenting two hollow tubes, baiting one of them and letting subjects choose. Conditions varied depending on whether subjects had visual access to the baiting, the cost associated with seeking information, the time interval between baiting and choosing, the food quality and the additional information offered regarding the food's location. Although subjects showed a high retrieval accuracy when they had witnessed the baiting, they were more likely to check inside the tube before choosing when high stakes were involved (Experiment 3) or after a longer period of time had elapsed between the baiting and the retrieval of the reward (Experiment 2). In contrast, providing subjects with indirect auditory information about the food's location or increasing the cost of checking reduced checking before choosing (Experiment 1). Taken together, these findings suggest that subjects knew that they could be wrong when choosing.

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    • "Therefore, there is some evidence against the idea of a rote foraging response. However, the second line of evidence put forth by Call (2010, 2012) and Marsh and MacDonald (2012a) is that great apes routinely stop looking for information or refrain from doing so altogether if the location of the hidden food can be determined through inference by logical exclusion. "
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    ABSTRACT: Previous research has demonstrated that Old World primates (both apes and monkeys) seek information about the location of a hidden food item, unless they are privy to the hiding process. This has been cited as evidence of metacognition. However, these results could also be interpreted using non-metacognitive accounts, including a generalized search response to uncertainty, in which subjects reach for food when it is seen, or search for food until it is spotted. In the present research, lion-tailed macaques were tested on an object-choice task. Conditions varied with respect to the visibility of the baiting process, and whether the location of the hidden food could be inferred by logical exclusion. Additionally, the hidden food could be located visually before a choice was made, by peering under the objects through a Plexiglas tray. Across conditions, monkeys consistently looked for the food when it had not been seen, even if its location could be inferred, despite the fact that these monkeys are capable of inference by exclusion. This suggests that apparently 'metacognitive' information seeking in monkeys may instead reflect a generalized search strategy. Alternatively, it is possible that monkeys only have metacognitive access to certain types of knowledge, including that obtained visually. Results are discussed with respect to the likelihood of metacognition in this species and the evolutionary emergence of metacognition across species.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2014 · Animal Cognition
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    • "Motivated by recent findings in the animal literature (e.g., Hampton, 2001; Smith et al., 2003; Kornell et al., 2007; Call, 2010), developmental researchers have started to examine the implicit signs/precursors of metacognitive abilities in younger children (e.g., Call and Carpenter, 2001; Balcomb and Gerken, 2008; Gerken et al., 2011). Balcomb and Gerken (2008), for example, relied on an opt-out paradigm to examine early signs of implicit metamemory in preschool children. "
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    ABSTRACT: The current study examined early signs of implicit metacognitive monitoring in 3.5-year-old children. During a learning phase children had to learn paired associates. In the test phase, children performed a recognition task and choose the correct associate for a given target among four possible answers. Subsequently, children's explicit confidence judgments (CJs) and their fixation time allocation at the confidence scale were assessed. Analyses showed that explicit CJs did not differ for remembered compared to non-remembered items. In contrast, children's fixation patterns on the confidence scale were affected by the correctness of their memory, as children looked longer to high confidence ratings when they correctly remembered the associated item. Moreover, analyses of pupil size revealed pupil dilations for correctly remembered, but not incorrectly remembered items. The results converge with recent behavioral findings that reported evidence for implicit metacognitive memory monitoring processes in 3.5-year-old children. The study suggests that implicit metacognitive abilities might precede the development of explicit metacognitive knowledge.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2013 · Frontiers in Psychology
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    • "Still, this differential looking behavior may be explained as the result of competition between a reaching response— which would be strong after seeing a specific tube paired with food—and a looking response—which would be weaker than the reaching response after observed baiting, but not after unobserved baiting (see Carruthers 2008: Crystal and Foote 2011, for elaborations of this nonmetacognitive account). In response to this criticism, Call (2010) reported that, when the value of the hidden reward was higher, the apes correspondingly increased their looking behavior; that is, the more valuable the reward, the more effort the apes were willing to expend. According to a response competition account, highly valuable rewards should more strongly encourage a reaching response, but this was not the case in Call's study (see Marsh and MacDonald 2011a, b, for similar results). "
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    ABSTRACT: Metacognitive control may occur if an organism seeks additional information when the available information for solving a problem is inadequate. Such information-seeking behavior has been documented in primates, but evidence of analogous behavior is less convincing in non-primates. In our study, we adopted a novel methodological approach. We presented pigeons with visual discriminations of varying levels of difficulty, and on special testing trials, we gave the birds the opportunity of making the discrimination easier. We initially trained pigeons on a discrimination between same and different visual arrays, each containing 12 items (low difficulty), 4 items (intermediate difficulty), or 2 items (high difficulty). We later provided an "Information" button that the pigeons could peck to increase the number of items in the arrays, thereby making the discrimination easier, plus a "Go" button which, when pecked, simply allowed the pigeons to proceed to their final discriminative response. Critically, our pigeons' choice of the "Information" button increased as the difficulty of the task increased. As well, some of our pigeons showed evidence of prompt and appropriate transfer of using the "Information" button to help them perform brand-new brightness and size discrimination tasks. Speculation as to the contents of pigeons' private mental states may be unwarranted, but our pigeons did objectively exhibit the kind of complex, flexible, and adaptive information-seeking behavior that is deemed to be involved in metacognitive control.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2012 · Animal Cognition
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