Hysteresis effects in a motor task with cotton-top tamarins (Sanguinus oedipus)

J Exp Psychol Anim Behav Process. 2009 Jul;35(3):427-33. doi: 10.1037/a0013964.


The way human adults grasp an object is influenced by their recent history of motor actions. Previously executed grasps are often more likely to reoccur on subsequent grasps. This type of hysteresis effect has been incorporated into cognitive models of motor planning, suggesting that when planning movements, individuals tend to reuse recently used plans rather than generating new plans from scratch. To the best of our knowledge, the phylogenetic roots of this phenomenon have not been investigated. Here, the authors asked whether 6 cotton-top tamarin monkeys (Saguinus oedipus) would demonstrate a hysteresis effect on a reaching task. The authors tested the monkeys by placing marshmallow pieces within grasping distance of a hole through which the monkeys could reach. On subsequent trials, the marshmallow position changed such that it progressed in an arc in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. The authors asked whether the transition point in right- versus left-handed reaches would differ depending on the direction of the progression. The data supported this hysteresis prediction. The outcome provides additional support for the notion that human motor planning strategies may have a lengthy evolutionary history.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Distance Perception
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Hand Strength*
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Motivation
  • Motor Skills
  • Orientation*
  • Problem Solving*
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Saguinus / psychology*