Here is a list of current projects being conducted at the LRC.
Click the links for more details on each of these:
Selected Recent Publications:
James, B. T., Parrish, A. E, Guild, A. S., Creamer, C., Kelly, V., Perdue, B. M., Kelly, A. J., & Beran, M. J. (2021). Go if you know: Preschool children’s movements reflect their metacognitive monitoring. Cognitive Development, 17, 101001. Link
Smith, T. R., Smith, J. D., & Beran, M. J. (2018). Not knowing what one knows: A meaningful failure of metacognition in capuchin monkeys. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 5, 55-67. Click here for the full paper.
Beran, M. J., Perdue, B. M., Church, B. A., & Smith, J. D. (2016). Capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) modulate their use of an uncertainty response depending on risk. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition, 42, 32-43.
Beran, M. J., Perdue, B. M., Futch, S. E., Smith, J. D., Evans, T. A., & Parrish, A. E.(2015). Go when you know: Chimpanzees’ confidence movements reflect their responses in a computerized memory task. Cognition, 142, 236-246.
Perdue, B. M., Church, B. A., Smith, J. D., & Beran, M. J. (2015). Exploring potential mechanisms underlying the lack of uncertainty monitoring in capuchin monkeys. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, Article 28. Click here for full-text PDF file.
Zakrzewski, A. C., Perdue, B. M., Beran, M. J., Church, B. A., & Smith, J. D. (2014). Cashing out: The decisional flexibility of uncertainty responses in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) and humans (Homo sapiens). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition, 40, 490-501.
This research program focuses on the self-control behavior of nonhuman primates. Here, we use delay of gratification tasks in which animals can obtain a more preferred or larger reward by waiting to make a response whereas they obtain a smaller or lesser preferred reward if they make that response. In the most recent studies, we have used a technique in which food items accumulate as long as an animal inhibits consumption of those items. Thus, the longer the animal waits to eat the food items that are accessible, the more food items it can acquire. This rather simple technique has provided compelling evidence that chimpanzees show excellent delay of gratification (sometimes for periods in excess of 10 minutes with very highly preferred food accumulating in front of them). Even rhesus monkeys, traditionally viewed as a highly impulsive species, show some success with this task, and recent projects with a new apparatus, the rotating tray task, has shown that capuchin monkeys with very poor delay of gratification skills can improve when given that task. We also have examined the relation between attentional allocation either to the food items or to other available stimuli and delay maintenance (continued inhibition of the impulsive response). For children, attention to the reward is highly detrimental to delay maintenance, but this appears not to be true for chimpanzees. In some cases, attention to the food items may even facilitate greater delay maintenance, and so we continue to probe this relation as well as other aspects of self-control in these species. For example, we have shown that chimpanzees will use self-distraction to help aid delay of gratification, as in the photo at left where Sherman is looking through a magazine during the delay interval. This research is supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD-060563).
Dr. Beran wrote a book about much of his research, and that of others, called Self-Control in Animals and People. You can find it here.
Parrish, A. E., James, B. T., Rossettie, M. S., Smith, T. R., Otalora-Garcia, A., & Beran, M. J. (2018). Investigating the depletion effect: Self-control does not waiver in capuchin monkeys. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 118-138.
Beran, M. J., James, B. T., Whitham, W., & Parrish, A. E. (2016). Chimpanzees can point to smaller amounts of food to accumulate larger amounts but they still fail the reverse-reward contingency task. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition, 42, 347-358.
Beran, M. J., Perdue, B. M., Rossettie, M. S., James, B. T., Whitham, W., Walker, B., Futch, S. E., & Parrish, A. E. (2016). Self-control assessments of capuchin monkeys with the rotating tray task and the accumulation task. Behavioural Processes, 129, 68-79.
Parrish, A. E., Emerson, I. D., Rossettie, M. S., & Beran, M. J. (2016). Testing the ego-depletion hypothesis among capuchin monkeys: Does glucose boost self-control? Behavioral Sciences, 6, 16.
Perdue, B. M., Bramlett, J. L., Beran, M. J., Evans, T. A., Paglieri, F., McIntyre, J. M, Addessi, E., & Hopkins, W. D. (2014). Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) can wait, when they choose to: A study with the hybrid delay task. Animal Cognition, 17, 197-205.
We are interested in counting and arithmetic skills in nonhuman primates, human adults, and human children. With regard to the question of whether animals are capable of counting behavior, we have approached the question through use of computerized tests of what is called constructive enumeration.
In these tests, chimpanzees have learned to select items on a computer screen, one-at-a-time, until they have accumulated (or constructed) a set equal to a presented target numeral. Chimpanzees are successful on such tasks for numerals up to 8, but performance is indicative of a process more similar to estimation than to formal counting.
The chimpanzees show decreasing performance levels as a function of increasing set size, and they also show greater variability in the size of the constructed set as numeral values increase. This pattern indicates that the enumerative process used by the animals is approximate in its representation of set size.
We have assessed estimation skills in chimpanzees, monkeys, human adults, and human children. In these tests, participants observe as items are placed into and removed from opaque containers so that additive and subtractive operations can be presented. This sequential presentation method has produced compelling similarities in the performance of the nonhuman primates and human children. In addition, recent studies have indicated that articulatory suppression methods can block subvocal counting routines in adult humans, producing data sets that are very similar to those of nonhuman primates and children who have not yet mastered the counting routine. Thus, these comparative data strongly suggest a shared mechanism for the approximate representation of set size for sequentially presented arrays. Modifications of the testing paradigm have demonstrated that chimpanzees also are capable of responding to addition and subtraction manipulations on these arrays, and also that chimpanzees can retain numerical information resulting from enumeration processes for extended time periods (up to 20 minutes). We have examined the link between these types of numerousness judgments and the formal counting skills acquired by children. We have postulated that counting skill is not required for children to be sensitive to arithmetic manipulations as such a sensitivity appears to be widespread phylogenetically. This research is supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD-38051).
Selected Related Publications:
Beran, M. J., French, K., Smith, T. R., & Parrish, A. E. (2019). Limited evidence of number-space mapping in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) and capuchin monkeys (Sapajus apella). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 133, 281-293.
Beran, M. J., & Parrish, A. E. (2016). Capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) treat small and large numbers of items similarly during a relative quantity judgment task. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 23, 1206-1213.
Beran, M. J., McIntyre, J. M., Garland, A., & Evans, T. A. (2013). What counts for “counting”? Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) respond appropriately to relevant and irrelevant information in a quantity judgment task. Animal Behaviour, 85, 987-993.
Beran, M. J., & Parrish, A. E. (2013). Visual nesting of stimuli affects rhesus monkeys’ (Macaca mulatta) quantity judgments in a bisection task. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 75, 1243-1251.
This research program focuses on the planning skills of primates and the use of prospective memory by primates including humans. People spend a lot of time thinking about the past and the future (what is sometimes called mental time travel). Being able to remember the past, including what, how, and when things happened, can be very helpful in new situations when one is not sure how to behave. Planning for the future, and remembering to carry out those plans, helps people prepare for things that are not immediately important but could be important hours, days, or even years from now. This ability to flexibly plan for the future has long been reserved for humans. In fact, it has been argued that animals are “stuck in time,” and they cannot think about the past or future because their behavior is affected only by their current needs and surroundings. If true, this would indicate a unique aspect of human memory and behavior. However, animals may show capacities for mental time travel, and such evidence would provide a better understanding of the evolutionary foundations of human memory and behavior. This project includes new tests of future-oriented thought and behavior in humans and three primate species (chimpanzees, rhesus monkeys, and capuchin monkeys). This project involves testing each species’ ability to anticipate future situations and plan future actions so as to determine continuities and discontinuities in the prospective memory and planning abilities of humans and other primates. In some cases, primates may show that they can plan for future situations that are different from present ones, and this performance will be directly compared to human performance.
Failures of prospective memory and failures to plan for the future can have profound consequences for humans. Understanding the causes of such failures is important and can benefit from a broad scientific approach that includes a comparative perspective. This project will provide a better understanding of the evolutionary emergence, as well as the limits, of planning and future-oriented thought and memory in humans and primates. These studies offer new ideas about the nature of primate memory, the beginnings of planned behavior, and the nature of prospective memory. This research will determine similarities and differences between primates and humans in their planning behavior and prospective memory and will help determine whether any of these abilities are unique to humans. The research is supported by the National Science Foundation (BCS – 0924811).
Selected Related Publications:
Kelly, A. J., Perdue, B. M., Love, M. W., Parrish, A. E., & Beran, M. J. (2018). An investigation of prospective memory with output monitoring in preschool children. American Journal of Psychology, 133, 201-210.
Beran, M. J., Parrish, A. E., Futch, S. E., Evans, T. A., & Perdue, B. M. (2015). Looking ahead? Computerized maze task performance by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta), capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella), and human children (Homo sapiens). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 129, 160-173.
Beran, M. J., Perdue, B. M., & Evans, T. A. (2015). Prospective memory in nonhuman primates. Japanese Journal of Animal Psychology, 65, 23-33.
Evans, T. A., Perdue, B. M., Parrish, A. E., & Beran, M. J. (2014). The relationship between event-based prospective memory and ongoing task performance in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). PLoS ONE, 9, e112015. Click here for full paper.
Perdue, B. M., Beran, M. J., Williamson, R. A., Gonsiorowski, A., Evans, T. A. (2014). Prospective memory in children and chimpanzees. Animal Cognition, 17, 287-295.
Cognitive control involves a number of regulatory or executive processes that allocate attention, manipulate and evaluate available information (and, when necessary, seek additional information), plan future behaviors, and deal with distraction and impulsivity when they are threats to goal achievement. These processes are considered a feature of human cognition and an important developmental milestone. Many of the other research projects in our lab relate to cognitive control. Studies of self-control, prospective memory, and metacognition all also highlight aspects of cognitive control.
In addition, we are studying this construct using tasks in which animals and children are given conflicting cues, or distracting information, to determine the degree to which they can make smart choices.
For example, we are testing children and chimpanzees on tasks where they must remember where rewards is located, and not be distracted by labels (lexigrams or photos) on the opaque containers that cover those rewards because they are a distraction. In other tests, we are examining how post-event information that is misleading might disrupt memory, or even create false memories.
Selected Related Publications:
Beran, M. J. (2017). To err is (not only) human: Fallibility as a window into primate cognition. Comparative Cognition & Behavior Reviews, 12, 57-81.
Parrish, A. E., Otalora-Garcia, A., & Beran, M. J. (2017). Dealing with interference: Chimpanzees respond to conflicting cues in a food-choice memory task. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition, 43, 366-376.
Beran, M. J., Menzel, C. R., Parrish, A. E., Perdue, B. M., Sayers, K., Smith, J. D., & Washburn, J. D. (2016). Primate cognition: Attention, episodic memory, prospective memory, self-control, and metacognition as examples of cognitive control in nonhuman primates. WIREs Cognitive Science. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1397
Beran, M. J. (2015). Chimpanzee cognitive control. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24, 352-357.
How do we choose? Why do we choose? To what extent are our choices affected by external factors in the environment? We ask these questions and others through studying choice in adults, children, and nonhuman animals. For example, we have studied the decoy effect, in which the presentation of a third, typically unwanted option (such as the $6.50 popcorn) changes how you might feel about the other two options compared to when it is not present. In some cases, other animals show this decoy effect as well.
We also have studied the effects of having choices on performance. For example, monkeys prefer to play computer games in which they can choose the tasks in the order they complete them compared to being given those games in the same order, but without control over choosing them. This is “choice for choice” and reflects the value that animals place on having options.
Selected Related Publications:
Parrish, A. E., Evans, T. A., & Beran, M. J. (2015). Rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) exhibit the decoy effect in a perceptual discrimination task. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 77, 1715-1725.
Klein, E. D., Evans, T. A., Schultz, N. B., & Beran, M. J. (2013). Learning how to “make a deal”: Human and monkey performance when repeatedly faced with the Monty Hall Dilemma. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 127, 103-108.