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The use of individual, social, and animated cue information by capuchin monkeys and children in a touchscreen task

Renner, Elizabeth and Kean, Donna and Atkinson, Mark and Caldwell, Christine A. (2021) 'The use of individual, social, and animated cue information by capuchin monkeys and children in a touchscreen task.', Scientific reports., 11 . p. 1043.


The distinctiveness of human cumulative culture raises the question of whether humans respond differently to information originating from social sources, compared with information from other sources. Further, does any such differential responding set humans apart from other species? We studied how capuchin monkeys and 2- to 5-year-old children used information originating from their own actions, those of a human demonstrator, or an animated cue. This information, presented via a touchscreen, always revealed in the first trial (T1) the reward value (rewarded or unrewarded) of one stimulus from a 2- or 3-item array, and could be used in a follow-up trial (T2) involving the same stimulus array. Two monkeys achieved a level of proficiency indicating their appreciation of the T1–T2 relationship, i.e., reliably repeating rewarded (“win”) selections and actively avoiding repetition of unrewarded (“lose”) selections well above chance levels. Neither the two task-proficient monkeys nor the children showed overall performance differences between the three source conditions. Non-task-proficient monkeys, by contrast, did show effects of source, performing best with individually-acquired information. The overall pattern of results hints at an alternative perspective on evidence typically interpreted as showing a human advantage for social information use.

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Publisher statement:This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Date accepted:15 December 2020
Date deposited:14 June 2021
Date of first online publication:13 January 2021
Date first made open access:14 June 2021

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