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A Comparative Study of the Learning of Four Macaca Nemestrina Monkeys 1)

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Four Macaca nemestrina monkeys were trained in two series of four discrimination learning tests. Their individual learning rate in both series was assessed by summing the number of errors made in each series by each monkey before ten consecutive correct choices were made in all four tests. The class order in series I was Plato, Cleon, Crito, Nestor, and in series II Cleon, Plato, Crito, Nestor. All four monkeys produced better results in series II than in series I, which affords evidence of the formation of 'learning sets' i.e. of learning to learn. The more rapid learners in series I showed a relatively greater improvement in their performance in series II. If the class order was based solely on the result of test 4, it was the same in both series, i.e. Cleon, Crito, Plato, Nestor. Only these two tests measure reversal learning, which involves not learning a discrimination but effecting a shift of set. It is suggested that measuring the capacity to shift set yields a more accurate assessment of a monkey's relative ability than his performance on discrimination tests. Monkey Crito showed an individual weakness in learning the tests involving the discrimination of stimuli differing in size.

Affiliations: 1: (University Laboratory of Physiology, Oxford


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