Study time allocation by humans and monkeys (Macaca mulatta) in a perceptual categorization task
Redford, Joshua S.
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Metacognition research has focused on the degree to which nonhuman primates (hereafter, referred to as primates) share humans' capacity to monitor their cognitive processes. Much of this research has involved the uncertainty monitoring paradigm that addresses the question of whether primates are sensitive to their internal states of uncertainty. This paradigm often elicits uncertainty by varying the difficulty of the primary task. Previous tasks include perceptual discriminations, numerosity decisions, and memory monitoring. Primates use two responses to classify the stimulus (e.g., whether a box is sparsely or densely filled with pixels). A third response permits the primate to escape from trials. This third response is referred to as the uncertainty response because human participants and primates frequently use it to escape from difficult trials that require discriminations that may produce uncertainty. Although metacognitive monitoring research in primates has grown, metacognitive control research in primates has received little attention. Metacognitive control research focuses on the mind's ability to control behavior and one's own environment based upon information acquired through metacognitive monitoring. For instance, a common form of metacognitive control involves the amount of time that students decide to study information. Metacognitive control is evident when these individuals increase their study time for more difficult information. The current series of experiments addresses this gap in the metacognition literature by exploring the capacity of human participants and rhesus monkeys ( Macaca mulatta --hereafter, referred to as monkeys) to adjust their study behavior in a perceptual categorization task. This project used dot distortion patterns in a category-learning paradigm that provided a perceptual counterpart to the verbal materials commonly used in research exploring metacognitive control in humans. Human participants and monkeys viewed more study trials when difficulty was increased. These data suggested that either participants were viewing more high difficulty study trials because of the increased novelty of those trials (novelty preference hypothesis) or participants were viewing more high difficulty study trials because they required more study trials to learn the categories (metacognitive control hypothesis). Split-group analyses favored the metacognitive control hypothesis. Therefore, this research provided evidence that monkeys also have the ability to exert accurate metacognitive control.