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The origins of counting algorithms. - Psychological science
Humans' ability to count by verbally labeling discrete quantities is unique in animal cognition. The evolutionary origins of counting algorithms are not understood. We report that nonhuman primates exhibit a cognitive ability that is algorithmically and logically similar to human counting. Monkeys were given the task of choosing between two food caches. First, they saw one cache baited with some number of food items, one item at a time. Then, a second cache was baited with food items, one at a time. At the point when the second set was approximately equal to the first set, the monkeys spontaneously moved to choose the second set even before that cache was completely baited. Using a novel Bayesian analysis, we show that the monkeys used an approximate counting algorithm for comparing quantities in sequence that is incremental, iterative, and condition controlled. This proto-counting algorithm is structurally similar to formal counting in humans and thus may have been an important evolutionary precursor to human counting.Â© The Author(s) 2015.
The evolution of self-control. - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Cognition presents evolutionary research with one of its greatest challenges. Cognitive evolution has been explained at the proximate level by shifts in absolute and relative brain volume and at the ultimate level by differences in social and dietary complexity. However, no study has integrated the experimental and phylogenetic approach at the scale required to rigorously test these explanations. Instead, previous research has largely relied on various measures of brain size as proxies for cognitive abilities. We experimentally evaluated these major evolutionary explanations by quantitatively comparing the cognitive performance of 567 individuals representing 36 species on two problem-solving tasks measuring self-control. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that absolute brain volume best predicted performance across species and accounted for considerably more variance than brain volume controlling for body mass. This result corroborates recent advances in evolutionary neurobiology and illustrates the cognitive consequences of cortical reorganization through increases in brain volume. Within primates, dietary breadth but not social group size was a strong predictor of species differences in self-control. Our results implicate robust evolutionary relationships between dietary breadth, absolute brain volume, and self-control. These findings provide a significant first step toward quantifying the primate cognitive phenome and explaining the process of cognitive evolution.
Inherently Analog Quantity Representations in Olive Baboons (Papio anubis). - Frontiers in psychology
Strong evidence indicates that non-human primates possess a numerical representation system, but the inherent nature of that system is still debated. Two cognitive mechanisms have been proposed to account for non-human primate numerical performance: (1) a discrete object-file system limited to quantities <4, and (2) an analog system which represents quantities comparatively but is limited by the ratio between two quantities. To test the underlying nature of non-human primate quantification, we asked eight experiment-naive olive baboons (Papio anubis) to discriminate between number pairs containing small (<4), large (>4), or span (small vs. large) numbers of food items presented simultaneously or sequentially. The prediction from the object-file hypothesis is that baboons will only accurately choose the larger quantity in small pairs, but not large or span pairs. Conversely, the analog system predicts that baboons will be successful with all numbers, and that success will be dependent on numerical ratio. We found that baboons successfully discriminated all pair types at above chance levels. In addition, performance significantly correlated with the ratio between the numerical values. Although performance was better for simultaneous trials than sequential trials, evidence favoring analog numerical representation emerged from both conditions, and was present even in the first exposure to number pairs. Together, these data favor the interpretation that a single, coherent analog representation system underlies spontaneous quantitative abilities in primates.
Differential endocrine responses to infant odors in common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) fathers. - Hormones and behavior
Olfactory cues can exert priming effects on many mammalian species. Paternally experienced marmosets, Callithrix jacchus, exposed to direct isolated olfactory contact with their own infant's scent show rapid decreases in testosterone levels within 20 min, whereas paternally inexperienced males do not. The following study tests whether there is a differential steroid response to exposure of infant scent from dependent infants (own and novel) and independent infants (own and novel). We examined the serum levels of estradiol, estrone, testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and combined estrogens and androgens in eight male marmosets 20 min after exposure to isolated infant scent. Testosterone and androgen levels combined were significantly lower with exposure to own infant scent than a novel infant scent when the infants were at a dependent age but not at an independent age. Estrogen levels elevated significantly in response to own infant scent when the infants were at a dependent age but not at an independent age. These results suggest that marmoset fathers are more responsive to priming cues from related infants and hormonal responses from fathers are greatest when the infant is at a dependent age.Published by Elsevier Inc.
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