Serial expertise of rhesus macaques

Psychol Sci. 2003 Jan;14(1):66-73. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.01420.


Here we describe the development of serial expertise in 4 experimentally naive rhesus monkeys that learned, by trial and error, the correct order in which to respond to 3-, 4-, and 7-item lists of arbitrarily selected photographs. The probabilities of guessing the correct sequence on 3-, 4-, and 7-item lists were, respectively, 1/6, 1/24, and 1/5,040. Each monkey became progressively more efficient at determining the correct order in which to respond on new lists. During subsequent testing, the subjects were presented with all possible pairs of the 28 items used to construct the four 7-item lists (excluding pairs of items that occupied the same ordinal position in different lists). Subjects responded to pairs from different lists in the correct order 91% of the time on the first trials on which these pairs were presented. These features of subjects' performance, which cannot be attributed to procedural memory, satisfy two criteria of declarative memory: rapid acquisition of new knowledge and flexible application of existing knowledge to a new problem.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Mathematics*
  • Memory / physiology