Multi-step routes of capuchin monkeys in a laser pointer traveling salesman task

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Abstract

Prior studies have claimed that nonhuman primates plan their routes multiple steps in advance. However, a recent reexamination of multi-step route planning in nonhuman primates indicated that there is no evidence for planning more than one step ahead. We tested multi-step route planning in capuchin monkeys using a pointing device to “travel” to distal targets while stationary. This device enabled us to determine whether capuchins distinguish the spatial relationship between goals and themselves and spatial relationships between goals and the laser dot, allocentrically. In Experiment 1, two subjects were presented with identical food items in Near-Far (one item nearer to subject) and Equidistant (both items equidistant from subject) conditions with a laser dot visible between the items. Subjects moved the laser dot to the items using a joystick. In the Near-Far condition, one subject demonstrated a bias for items closest to self but the other subject chose efficiently. In the second experiment, subjects retrieved three food items in similar Near-Far and Equidistant arrangements. Both subjects preferred food items nearest the laser dot and showed no evidence of multi-step route planning. We conclude that these capuchins do not make choices on the basis of multi-step look ahead strategies. Am. J. Primatol. 76:828–841, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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