Dissociation of memory signals for metamemory in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta)

Anim Cogn. 2019 May;22(3):331-341. doi: 10.1007/s10071-019-01246-5. Epub 2019 Feb 14.


Some nonhuman species demonstrate metamemory, the ability to monitor and control memory. Here, we identify memory signals that control metamemory judgments in rhesus monkeys by directly comparing performance in two metamemory paradigms while holding the availability of one memory signal constant and manipulating another. Monkeys performed a four-choice match-to-sample memory task. In Experiment 1, monkeys could decline memory tests on some trials for a small, guaranteed reward. In Experiment 2, monkeys could review the sample on some trials. In both experiments, monkeys improved accuracy by selectively declining tests or reviewing samples when memory was poor. To assess the degree to which different memory signals made independent contributions to the metamemory judgement, we made the decline-test or review-sample response available either prospectively, before the test, or concurrently with test stimuli. Prospective metamemory judgements are likely controlled by the current contents of working memory, whereas concurrent metamemory judgements may also be controlled by additional relative familiarity signals evoked by the sight of the test stimuli. In both paradigms, metacognitive responding enhanced accuracy more on concurrent than on prospective tests, suggesting additive contributions of working memory and stimulus-evoked familiarity. Consistent with the hypothesis that working memory and stimulus-evoked familiarity both control metamemory judgments when available, metacognitive choice latencies were longer in the concurrent condition, when both were available. Together, these data demonstrate that multiple memory signals can additively control metacognitive judgements in monkeys and provide a framework for mapping the interaction of explicit memory signals in primate memory.

Keywords: Familiarity; Information seeking; Metacognition; Monitoring; Working memory.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Judgment
  • Macaca mulatta* / psychology
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Metacognition*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Reward