Monkeys show recognition without priming in a classification task

Behav Processes. 2013 Feb;93:50-61. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2012.08.005. Epub 2012 Sep 1.


Humans show visual perceptual priming by identifying degraded images faster and more accurately if they have seen the original images, while simultaneously failing to recognize the same images. Such priming is commonly thought, with little evidence, to be widely distributed phylogenetically. Following Brodbeck (1997), we trained rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) to categorize photographs according to content (e.g., birds, fish, flowers, people). In probe trials, we tested whether monkeys were faster or more accurate at categorizing degraded versions of previously seen images (primed) than degraded versions of novel images (unprimed). Monkeys categorized reliably, but showed no benefit from having previously seen the images. This finding was robust across manipulations of image quality (color, grayscale, line drawings), type of image degradation (occlusion, blurring), levels of processing, and number of repetitions of the prime. By contrast, in probe matching-to-sample trials, monkeys recognized the primes, demonstrating that they remembered the primes and could discriminate them from other images in the same category under the conditions used to test for priming. Two experiments that replicated Brodbeck's (1997) procedures also produced no evidence of priming. This inability to find priming in monkeys under perceptual conditions sufficient for recognition presents a puzzle.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Macaca mulatta / psychology*
  • Male
  • Perceptual Masking*
  • Recognition, Psychology*
  • Repetition Priming*
  • Visual Perception*