Rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) adaptively monitor uncertainty while multi-tasking

Anim Cogn. 2010 Jan;13(1):93-101. doi: 10.1007/s10071-009-0249-5. Epub 2009 Jun 13.


As researchers explore animals' capacity for metacognition and uncertainty monitoring, some paradigms allow the criticism that animal participants-who are always extensively trained in one stimulus domain within which they learn to avoid difficult trials-use task-specific strategies to avoid aversive stimuli instead of responding to a generalized state of uncertainty like that humans might use. We addressed this criticism with an uncertainty-monitoring task environment in which four different task domains were interleaved randomly trial by trial. Four of five macaques (Macaca mulatta) were able to make adaptive uncertainty responses while multi-tasking, suggesting the generality of the psychological signal that occasions these responses. The findings suggest that monkeys may have an uncertainty-monitoring capacity that is like that of humans in transcending task-specific cues and extending simultaneously to multiple domains.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Animals
  • Cues
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Macaca mulatta / physiology*
  • Male
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Uncertainty*