Rhesus monkeys manipulate mental images

Cognition. 2022 Nov:228:105225. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2022.105225. Epub 2022 Jul 14.


Humans form mental images and manipulate them in ways that mirror physical transformations of objects. Studies of nonhuman animals will inform our understanding of the evolution and distribution among species of mental imagery. Across three experiments, we found mostly converging evidence that rhesus monkeys formed and rotated mental images. In Experiment 1, monkeys discriminated rotations of sample images from mirror images, and showed longer response latencies with greater rotation as is characteristic of human mental rotation. In Experiment 2 monkeys used a rotation cue that indicated how far to mentally rotate sample images before tests, indicating a precision of better than 30° in discriminating rotations. Experiment 3 yielded mixed evidence on whether the rotation cue shortened decision times as has been found in humans. These results show that rhesus monkeys manipulate mental images.

Keywords: Mental imagery; Mental rotation; Nonhuman primate.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta*
  • Reaction Time / physiology